Key member of Child and Family Agency steps down within year of appointment

Government breached pay limits to hire British expert Annie Callanan

A key member of an agency which is due to take over responsibility for child and family services has stepped down a year after being hired.

Annie Callanan was hired last year as head of quality assurance for HSE Children and Family Services. She was due to take over this role for the new Child and Family Agency, which is due to take over responsibility from the HSE for some 4,000 staff involved in children's services.

The Government agreed to breach advertised salary guidelines last year to hire Ms Callanan as it had not been possible to source a candidate with the required expertise.

In a statement to The Irish Times the HSE confirmed that Ms Callanan was stepping down and returning to the UK due to family commitments.

Three-year contract
She had been hired on a three-year contract of €145,000 a year in September of last year. Other senior management posts sanctioned by the Government at assistant national director level carry a lower salary of between €95,000 and €116,000.

The only exception is Gordon Jeyes, chief executive designate of the new agency, who is on a salary of €184,000.

The HSE statement added that the membership of the senior management team for the new Child and Family Agency was still being finalised.

Meanwhile, children’s advocates have hit out at a decision by the HSE to close all high-support units for troubled teenagers in State care.

High-support units are a form of residential care aimed at young people with emotional and behavioural problems who cannot be adequately cared for in mainstream care.

The HSE announced last week that in addition to closing a high-support unit in Co Monaghan – following a scathing report by health watchdog Health Information and Quality Authority – it planned to decommission all high-support units.

It has pledged to increase the number of so-called special care places instead, which provide for the detention of children in secure settings. The move, the HSE said, was following a national review of all residential services.

Epic, the main group which represents children in the care system, has criticised the move and said closing down high-support units would reduce the options available to care for young people.

"High-support units are still necessary to meet the needs of young people who do not need or meet the criteria for placement in a secure unit," said Jennifer Gargan, director of Epic.

Appropriate setting
The closure of high-support units has been welcomed, however, by Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald. She said the changes would help ensure children in care with complex needs or high-risk behaviour could receive care in an appropriate setting.

Yesterday she turned the sod on the construction of a new national child-detention facility in Oberstown, Co Dublin, for children who have been referred through the criminal justice system. The facility, which is being added to existing child-detention schools at the centre, is due to be completed next year.

Ms Fitzgerald said the new unit would end detaining teenagers in adult prisons.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent