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95 kids with disabilities in care

Wednesday, 10th April, 2019 5:03pm

There are 95 children with moderate and severe disabilities in care in Cork, the Cork Independent has learned.

Tusla confirmed the figure in response to a report issued by the Ombudsman for Children Office (OCO) about ‘Molly’s case’.

It’s a year on since the OCO published the report, and on Monday the office claimed that the HSE and Tusla are still not in agreement on the number of children in Cork with disabilities who are in care.

Molly is a child with a severe disability who is in foster care. She was abandoned at birth by her biological parents and has grown up with her foster family after being placed there when she was four months old.

Molly’s foster carer made a complaint to the OCO about the level of supports and services being provided by Tusla and the HSE.

The OCO said: “Twelve months on we are returning to this case and we have found that while Tusla has now identified 483 children with a moderate or severe disability in their care, the HSE is not in agreement on this figure as they cannot agree on the definition of a child with moderate or severe disability.”

Dr Niall Muldoon said: “Since last year some definite progress has been made, particularly for Molly herself, but the working relationship between Tusla and the HSE is still of concern. It is not good enough that the HSE still has not identified the children in question.

“I will continue to monitor these issues for the next twelve months, engaging with both the HSE and Tusla.”

A Tusla spokesman told the newspaper: “The number of children in care with a diagnosis of moderate/severe disability in Cork is 95. This figure, included as part of a nationwide breakdown of data on the subject, was conveyed to the Ombudsman for Children’s Office by Tusla in December 2018. The total number of children in foster care with a diagnosis of moderate/severe disability in the State, as of November 2018, was 483.”

Tusla interim CEO, Pat Smyth, said: “In Molly’s local area, the collaboration between Tusla and the HSE in joint working on behalf of Molly has been excellent. This partnership has involved daily, weekly and quarterly meetings. Her dietary and educational needs have also been agreed in multi-disciplinary meetings and are under constant review.

“We are very dependent on the expertise of other State agencies to help provide support plans for children in foster care who have a moderate or severe disability. We intend to build on the work that has been done in association with the HSE.”

Mr Smyth continued: “Tusla is pleased with progress on this work, but we know that it must be accelerated to ensure all children with mild or severe disabilities in foster care receive its benefits. We welcome the Ombudsman’s involvement in this work for the coming 12 months, and look forward to working with him, and our partners in the HSE.”

In a statement from the HSE, it said it welcomed the report: “The HSE and Tusla have worked closely to address the issues highlighted in the report and to progress the recommendations.

“A key issue being addressed is the joint working between the HSE and Tusla. A joint working protocol to support good collaboration and working relationships between the agencies to promote the best interests of children, families and vulnerable adults has been developed and implemented.

“The protocol governs how children in care access HSE services. It clarifies and sets out the respective roles, duties and legal requirements of the HSE and Tusla in relation to children and young people with a disability and/ or mental health issue.”

The statement continued: “Since 2018 the HSE and Tusla have been reviewing the care needs of all children with a moderate-to-severe disability currently in foster care. The HSE and Tusla are satisfied that all children with a moderate-to-severe disability currently in foster care are being jointly reviewed using the statutory Children in Care Reviews with a view to ensuring that there is an active care plan in place that guides all stakeholders in supporting each child and his/her carers.

“The HSE acknowledges the Ombudsman for Children’s commitment to monitoring progress in implementing these recommendations that will enable children with a moderate-to-severe disability in foster care to reach their full potential,” the statement concluded.

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