HSE revises figures for deaths of children

 

THE HEALTH Service Executive has revised upwards the number of children and young adults in State care, or known to social services, who have died over the past decade.

Between January 1st, 2000, and April 30th, 2010, the HSE says it now believes 199 children and young adults in these categories died, 11 more than the 188 it announced in June this year.

An initial analysis of internal records undertaken by the HSE indicates that 109 died of a “combination of unnatural causes” – such as suicide, drug overdoses, unlawful killings, traffic accidents – and 90 died of natural causes or from health conditions.

Laverne McGuinness, national director of the HSE’s integrated services directorate, wrote to the Oireachtas public accounts committee on November 23rd to update the information on child deaths that it provided at a previous meeting on June 4th.

She said the increase of 11 deaths from 188 to 199 followed a further three-month review of HSE records. The increases in the number of deaths are in the category of children known to the service (nine) and young adults who had left care (two).

She said an adjustment was also made to the number of deaths of children in care, which was reduced by two following the review.

The letter, which has been seen by The Irish Times, concludes that between January 1st, 2000, and April 30th, 2010, 35 children in care died, as did 133 children known to the service and 31 young adults who had left care. It says 90 deaths were of natural causes and 109 deaths can be categorised as being from unnatural causes. The letter says these figures may be subject to change.

“Caution is given against a total reliance on this statistic at present as there would not be inquest result, postmortem result, death certificate or other formal process complete in respect of all cases,” says Ms McGuinness in her letter to committee chairman Bernard Allen TD.

She says the independent review group which was recently set up by the Government to review child deaths would provide further analysis of these figures.

The group’s members, child law expert Geoffrey Shannon and Barnardos director of advocacy Norah Gibbons, are currently analysing all the case files relating to child and young people’s deaths. The review was set up following public concern at delays in the publication of reports into deaths, such as that of teenager Tracey Fay.

In January 2002, four years after being admitted to care, Tracey Fay died of a drugs overdose at the age of 18. In March this year, Fine Gael TD Alan Shatter published a leaked HSE report into her death, which he claimed was being withheld.