Review of child protection training under way at Templemore
Dr Geoffrey Shannon urges TDs to ‘take on vested interests’ and pass alcohol Bill
Dr Geoffrey Shannon at the publication of his audit report into the Garda in February. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins
A review of child protection training at Templemore Garda College is underway, an Oireachtas committee was told on Wednesday.
Dr Geoffrey Shannon, special rapporteur for child protection, said he has been asked to participate in the review and was willing to help.
He had initially reviewed child protection training at the centre as part of an audit report into the exercise of Garda powers to remove children from their homes in emergency situations.
He told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality that he had found training at Templemore was not adequate and more robust training was required.
His audit, published in May, also highlighted concerns and made recommendations on issues including poor interagency co-operation, inadequate out-of-hours social work services and the inadequacy of the Garda’s Pulse system, a computer system which records data on cases.
Dr Shannon told the committee that An Garda Síochána had accepted the findings of his report in its entirety, including the failings in the Pulse system. He said he had been told changes had been made. He also said he was told there was a garda implementation plan based on his report, but he had not seen it.
He said Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, had also produced an implementation plan and he had been invited to present before its board at the end of the month.
The Policing Authority had been sent a copy of his report, he said, but he had not been contacted by the organisation.
Centres of excellence
He emphasised the importance of his recommendation about co-location of child protection services for children, with gardaí and Tusla working together from one venue. He said co-location should be the “broad reform” from the report and it could be modelled on centres of excellence in the health service.
“Why can’t we have centres of excellence for children?” he asked.
He also highlighted the role of alcohol abuse in taking children into care and emphasised the importance of upcoming legislation on alcohol control. He told committee members they needed to “take on vested interests”.
Independent TD Clare Daly, along with all members of the committee in attendance, praised the audit report.
“It will be criminally negligent if this report is not implemented,” she said.
She also said it was “quite shocking” that the Policing Authority had not been in touch with Dr Shannon.
Sinn Féin TD Donnachadh O’Laoghaire and committee chairman, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, also of Sinn Féin, highlighted a discrepancy in the Pulse system that appeared to show of the 595 children removed from family homes by gardaí in 2014, 31 children were unaccounted for on the Pulse system.
“It strikes me these children are missing,” Mr Ó Caoláin said.
Asked if this was a concern, Dr Shannon said he had been given an explanation that the cases had been misclassified and he was reassured, given his finding in the rest of the cases he examined that showed gardaí had acted proportionately in carrying out their powers.
Mr Ó Caoláin said the committee would put questions about the implementation of Dr Shannon’s recommendations to An Garda Síochána when the organisation appeared before it in two weeks.