Child agency failures criticised
Barnardo's Fergus Finlay : Over 107,000 children now living in consistent poverty in Ireland. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times
The failure to transfer child psychologists and public health nurses to the new Child and Family Support Agency has been criticised by child welfare experts.
Fergus Finlay, chief executive of Barnardo's, said it was "daft" and "crazy" not to move the two professions from the HSE to the umbrella of the new agency.
Public health nurses were "the best early warning system" for signs of neglect and abuse of children, as they go into every home in the country, and visit newborns five times in the first two years of their lives, he told the Oireachtas Health Committee this morning.
Prof Pat Dolan, director of the child and family research centre at NUI Galway, said that unless all the professions were under the one umbrella, the new agency wouldn't impact on children's lives in the way intended.
"Unless the agency has all the professsions in together, it won't happen," he warned.
However, independent TD Denis Naughton said transferring public health nurses to the new agency would effectively abolish the role in the HSE. Neglect and abuse were defined by age, he said, and many households could contain older people who were being abused.
By splitting the profession between those dealing with under-18s and those dealing with adults, you would lose some of the impact that nurses had, he maintained.
Mr Finlay said the existing system of child protection had failed. In the first five years of its life, the subject of children had never once made it onto the agenda of the board of the HSE, which was set up to deal with myriad issues and spent much of its time dealing with crises. As a result, it forgot it had a statutory responsibility to protect vulnerable children.
Mr Finlay said that he had in his working life been more scared about the number of children at risk in Ireland as at present. Over 107,000 children were now living in consistent poverty, and there was a rapidly escalating incidence of the lower levels of child concern and neglect.