'Excessive secrecy' over deaths of children in care

Carl O'Brien

March 9, 2009 / Irish Times

THE GOVERNMENT and health authorities have been accused of suppressing reports into the deaths of children who were placed in the State’s care system.

Fine Gael TD Alan Shatter said there was an excessive amount of secrecy over the deaths of a total of 21 children in care since 2000. He called on the Government to publish reports into these cases to ensure there is greater transparency and accountability.

“We have an excessive amount of secrecy and a total lack of transparency,” Mr Shatter said. “Where children taken into our care system lose their lives it should not be a matter of secrecy as to the circumstances in which they lost their lives, or as to what action if any could have been taken by a health authority . . . ”

He was responding to a recent report in The Irish Times which highlighted the number of deaths in the care system. Many of them were in the emergency or “out of hours” system, which caters to small numbers of children at risk.

Mr Shatter said that in the small number of cases where investigations had taken place into the deaths of young people, none of these reports had been published.

Responding to Mr Shatter’s criticism on behalf of Minister for Children Barry Andrews last week, Minister of State John Moloney said there were more than 5,300 children in the care of the HSE. Over 92 per cent of these children were placed with foster families, with the remaining children placed in residential settings.

Mr Moloney said the death of a child in care was a serious matter and required careful and detailed consideration. He said the HSE was reviewing its procedures for dealing with deaths of children in its care.

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