CHILD DEATH DEBACLE – ABOLISH THE HSE

The litany of misinformation and confusion from the HSE and the use of the HSE as a buffer confounding democratic accountability are compelling reasons to recognise that Harney’s HSE is a failure and must be abolished.

A reformation of the Department of Health with four or five health boards is the obvious solution.

The Irish Times describes the continuing saga. I do not blame Barry Andrews for this but he has other problems which I will describe in the next week.

HSE says 37 children died in State care over last decade

A total of 37 children have died in the care of the State over the last 10 years.

The HSE said this evening that 18 of these died of unnatural causes and 19 died of natural causes in the period from January 1st 2000 to April 30th of this year.

Five of the children died from suicide, five of the deaths were drug related, two were unlawful killings, three died in road traffic incidents and three died in other incidents.

A total of 19 children died from natural causes and health related conditions, such as brain tumours, leukaemia, surgical complications and heart disease during the same period.

The HSE said the number relates to children who were officially in the care of the HSE or former health boards in accordance with the provision of the Child Care Act 1991 by court order or voluntary consent.

Bernard Gloster, a senior manager at the HSE who was given the task of drawing up a list requested by the Government, said yesterday he did not expect the figure to change substantially fro a list of 23 given to the Government.

The announcement follows severe criticism of the HSE, which was unable to provide definitive figures on the number of children who died in State care to Minister for Children Barry Andrews. It also refused to hand over any files of children who died while in State care to an independent review group established by Mr Andrews.

Mr Gloster said there had been “considerable confusion” in the media over the issue, which threatened to undermine the integrity of the HSE’s childcare services.

He said one reason for the delay in providing definitive figures was a decision to change the definition of children who die while in State care to include those who continue to receive aftercare services when they turn
18 years. These services, which typically include supported accommodation, help vulnerable children who have been in care between the age of 18 and 21 to move into adulthood.

The HSE’s commitment to confirm the number of children who have died while in care follows the intervention of Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who has faced sustained criticism in the Dáil over his Government’s failure to obtain definitive information from the HSE.

Last Sunday, it was reported that the total number of children who died while in State care could be anything up to 200.

The HSE is now drawing up a list of children “known to” HSE services, who have died over the past decade. Mr Gloster said work was continuing with officials at the Department of Health to provide a definition of what this actually meant.

He said this process should be concluded by Monday and he hoped a complete list would be drawn up and given to the Government by next Friday.

Mr Gloster said this was a very difficult task because it involved checking manual records and relying on the local knowledge of social workers. He said the HSE was reforming the way it keeps records. He said the HSE welcomed the

Government’s intention to pass emergency legislation to remove the legal impediments preventing the HSE from handing over files on children’s deaths.

Minister for Health Mary Harney told RTÉ last night legislation was being prepared and would be enacted before the summer recess.

Fine Gael’s Childcare spokesman Alan Shatter accused the HSE of failing to tell the truth.

“The HSE has in its statement utterly failed to truthfully explain why as recently as March 2010 the Minister for Children (Barry Andrews) was informed that the number of child deaths in care was 23 and how it is that nine weeks later the number has grown to 37,” he said.

“Today’s revelation is not only an indictment of the incompetence and failure of the HSE, but also an indictment of the utter failure of Government to ensure the proper monitoring and governance of our childcare and protection services.”

Later tonight the Minister for Children Barry Andrews criticised the 10 weeks it took to hand over the figures, which he requested in March.

He also said it was a matter of deep concern that there was a significant difference between the original figures of 23 presented and the higher number announced.

“The overall discrepancy between the figures reported raises serious questions about the management of information in the HSE in an extremely sensitive area and I will be requiring both an explanation and assurances from the Board and Senior Management in the HSE,” he added.

Mr Andrews revealed he was also awaiting information on the death of any child known to the HSE child protection system and the death of young adults in the care of the HSE in the period immediately prior to their 18th birthday.

“I am informed by the HSE that this information will be available by Friday June 4,” he added.