New Hiqa standards increase support of children in State care

Best-practice guidelines promote child-centred approach and protect children’s rights

 Dr Helen Buckley: chair of National Review Panel in 2013 that revealed  almost 40 children and young people died while in State care in 2011 and 2012

Dr Helen Buckley: chair of National Review Panel in 2013 that revealed almost 40 children and young people died while in State care in 2011 and 2012

 

The Health and Information Quality Authority (Hiqa) has published new standards designed to ensure children in State care are safe and get adequate support.

The document sets out best-practice guidelines for State-run bodies or institutions charged with the care of children.

According to the health watchdog, the aim of the new National Standards for Special Care Units is to promote a child-centred approach in service provision, to protect children’s rights and to make sure their voices are heard where care is being provided.

Specifically, it seeks to guarantee that children are helped to access social workers, that a culture of transparency is encouraged when dealing with child-care complaints, and that children would ideally be present when their rooms are searched and informed about why it is happening.

“The overall aim of these care units is to provide focused care in a highly supportive environment, stabilising behaviour so that children are enabled to return to non-secure care within a short period of time,” said Marie Kehoe-O’Sullivan, Director of Safety and Quality Improvement at Hiqa.

“Children are only placed in special care units when such a placement is considered necessary for their care and welfare.

“These are vulnerable children and these units have an important role to play in promoting and safeguarding the rights of the children in their care,” she said.

The standards were developed following public consultation and approved by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs James Reilly. They will replace the previous standards instituted in 2001.

The new standards follow a series of reports which were highly critical of the care of children in State-run institutions over recent years. There are over 6,000 children in State care.

Findings released by the National Review Panel in 2013 revealed that almost 40 children and young people died while in State care in 2011 and 2012.

Last July, review panel chairperson Dr Helen Buckley warned that more children could die needlessly if assurances of reform weren’t carried through, while The Irish Times last September reported a backlog of 9,000 cases of abuse, neglect or welfare concerns over children at risk without a social worker.