Hiqa to have new role overseeing reports into deaths of children in care

Decision a result of concern about serious incidents involving vulnerable young people

Minister  for Children James Reilly: ‘We must learn lessons from the examination of serious incidents or deaths relating to children who receive care.’ Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for Children James Reilly: ‘We must learn lessons from the examination of serious incidents or deaths relating to children who receive care.’ Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The State’s social services watchdog will have a new role overseeing reports into deaths or serious incidents involving children in contact with the care system.

At present a National Review Panel panel commissioned by Child and Family Agency examines the circumstances of these cases. The group is independently chaired by Dr Helen Buckley of Trinity College Dublin.

Under new changes, the Health Information and Quality Authority will have an audit and oversight role regarding these reports.

In addition, investigations into the State’s handling of these cases will be submitted to the Oireachtas.

Other changes aimed at bolstering the independence of the review panel include:

* A provision to ensure that serving officials from the HSE or the Child and Family Agency cannot take part in review unless it is at least two years since they left the organisation

* The review panel will report in future to the board of the Child and Family Agency in accordance with best practice, and not directly to line management

* Commitments from the Child and Family Agency to a more timely schedule in terms of the production of reports and required responses to any recommendations made by the panel

Minister for Children Dr James Reilly welcomed the changes which he said would strengthen the integrity of the panel’s work.

“We have few greater responsibilities than to learn from the mistakes of the past. The importance of the work of the National Review Panel cannot be over-stated.

“We must learn lessons from the examination of serious incidents or deaths relating to children who receive care.

Dr Reilly said the independence of the panel would now be enhanced with Hiqa playing a key role in auditing the independence of the process and for the first time reports will have to be laid before the Oireachtas.

The panel was first established by the HSE following concerns over the State’s handling of cases involving young people who died while in care or in contact with the care system.

An independent report subsequently commissioned by the State – described by its authors as a “devastating indictment” of social services – found that 196 children died between 2000 and 2010.

Of these, 112 died of overdoses, suicide, unlawful killings and other non-natural causes.