HSE and Tusla criticised by ombudsman over inadequate plans for disabled children

Niall Muldoon says lack of action suggests focus on budget rather than drive to provide best care

Dr Niall Muldoon: ‘The HSE is ignoring the spirit of this agreement.’ File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Dr Niall Muldoon: ‘The HSE is ignoring the spirit of this agreement.’ File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

The Children’s Ombudsman Dr Niall Muldoon has criticised both the HSE and Tusla for not adequately making plans for disabled children in care.

A report published on Thursday by the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman (OCO) called Molly Two Years On, outlines significant progress made to improve supports and services available to children with moderate to profound disabilities in the care of the State. However, the report also identifies substantial shortcomings, particularly on behalf of the HSE.

Dr Muldoon said two years after the OCO first published Molly’s Case, the HSE still cannot agree with Tusla on the identity of these children and they still cannot adequately plan for their care.

“In 2018 we published Molly’s Case, an investigation we carried out about a child with a disability who is in foster care. She was abandoned by her biological parents at birth. She is now 16 and has grown up with her foster family after being placed there soon after she was born. Molly is dependent on her foster carers for feeding, toileting, bathing, and dressing,” Dr Muldoon told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

“When Molly’s foster carer came to us we found that neither the HSE nor Tusla saw Molly as a child in care and also a child with a disability. There was a lack of co-ordination which meant that services and supports provided by both organisations were insufficient.

“We also found that, according to Tusla there were 471 other children like Molly, yet neither Tusla nor the HSE had a good enough system in place to ensure adequate supports were being provided.

“When we published Molly’s case in 2018 both the HSE and Tusla made a number of significant and ambitious commitments. We revisited this case in 2019, but we were not satisfied with the progress made so we decided to give the HSE and Tusla another 12 months to fulfil their commitments.”

Dr Muldoon said it was incomprehensible that two years on, the HSE has still not managed to come to an agreement with Tusla to identify the children in State care nationally with moderate to profound disabilities.

“The HSE is ignoring the spirit of this agreement,” he said.

While the HSE and Tusla have worked together to identify the children who will turn 18, he said, they could not do the same for younger children. “This suggests a focus on the financial implications to their budget, rather than a drive to plan for and provide the best care.

“It is imperative that every effort is made to support all the exceptionally committed foster carers that are looking after children with moderate to severe disabilities. Without their loving care and commitment these children would be facing a life in residential care. However, in order to provide the appropriate support there must be consensus among those involved as to who these children are.”

Dr Muldoon called on both agencies to “mould together”. He said he intends to bring a copy of this report to both the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs.

“In an effort to mirror the level of co-operation required for this case I will be urging the two committees to come together and review the report jointly so as to address the issues arising.”