independent

Saturday 21 September 2019

So many young deaths just slip by

DEBORAH COLEMAN

THE RECENTLY published Independent Child Death Review Group report made for stark reading with the revelation that 112 children in the care of aftercare of the HSE died of unnatural causes over the course of a decade up to April 2010.

The fact that month after month these children and young people were dying and nobody was asking questions about it is sickening. There seems to be no accountability for the countless mistakes that were made.

Once the report was commissioned the authors had to sift through a chaotic paperwork system that was missing vital documents including birth certificates and case files. Some children didn't even have a case worker assigned to them. An original figure in the twenties was suggested as the number of children who died from both natural and unnatural causes which only serves to show how out of touch the authorities were pre-report.

How can so many lives slip through the cracks? Before the report carried out by Norah Gibbons and Geoffrey Shannon nobody even knew the exact number and couldn't have dreamt that it would be so high.

The findings are an embarrassment to us as a society and especially to the HSE who was supposed to be looking after these children who were vulnerable and troubled.

If a child is not being cared for properly in the home or are at risk outside the home it is up to the state to step in and do what is necessary to protect the child.

This is of course impossible if there is no knowledge of the case but the children in this report were all known to the HSE. Their troubles were not unknown and neither were the risk they were at. They were neglected, and because adequate support and care wasn't forthcoming when they needed it most they weren't even exposed to the possibility of a better life.

The overall response to the report's findings has been one of shock coupled with agreement that it is long overdue. Now that figures and some cases have been made public efforts must be made to ensure that this trend does not continue.

There is talk that the referendum on children's rights will happen before the year is out which is expected to strengthen child welfare supports.

What is vital is that the recommendations of the report are not just read, noted and filed away. The contents are too important for this to happen and while tensions are raw at present over the appalling findings action must be taken to prevent preventable further loss of life.

If things don't change then it's an insult to all those 112 children who suffered unnecessarily due an inept and careless system.

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