Poor communication ‘key issue’ in Roma cases
HSE report says social workers ‘not involved’ in decision to remove Athlone child
Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan has received an internal report from the HSE over its role in the cases and is due to receive a report soon from the Garda Commissioner. Photograph: Alan Betson.
Poor communication between gardaí and social workers outside office hours has been flagged as a key issue in an internal HSE report into the cases of Roma children who were wrongly removed from their families.
Last Friday Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan received an internal report from the HSE over its role in the cases and is due to receive a report soon from the Garda Commissioner. A spokeswoman declined to comment on the contents of the reports.
However, a source familiar with the report said yesterday the internal report would state that in Athlone, social workers were not involved in the decision to take the boy into care.
In this case, a two-year-old boy with fair hair and blue eyes was removed from his family by gardaí under the Child Care Act, apparently on the basis that he did not resemble his parents and may have been at immediate and serious risk.
The boy was placed in foster care that night after gardaí contacted an “emergency place of safety” service. This is a national service offered to gardaí and hospitals outside of office hours.
The emergency place of safety service is run by a private firm, Five Rivers Ireland, which provides access to emergency care outside normal hours.
Social workers became involved the following day and the boy was later returned to his family.
The HSE report is expected to say that information-sharing arrangements outside of office hours could be improved to ensure gardaí have access to social services’ expertise and knowledge.
The internal HSE report also examines the circumstances of a how a Roma child from a family in west Dublin was taken into care, again on the apparent basis that she may have been a victim of trafficking.
The girl was returned to her family after DNA tests confirmed she was the biological daughter of her parents.
The Sunday Times reported yesterday that social workers did not question the actions of gardaí, on the basis that it was considered to be a criminal rather than a welfare matter.
The newspaper report states that there was a reluctance by social workers to get involved as the case was being portrayed by gardaí as a possible kidnapping.
The Garda’s role in these cases is outlined in a separate internal report prepared by the Garda Commissioner.
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has received this report and is due to send it to the Ombudsman for Children shortly.