The Irish Times view on child welfare: grim, familiar reading

Reports on the deaths of teenagers in care point to long-standing problems

The four latest reports from the National Review Panel (NRP), which examines the deaths of children known to or in the care of Tusla, make for grim and familiar reading. Since its establishment in 2010 the NRP, which is tasked by Tusla to conduct these reviews, has reported on the deaths of 97 children. The latest is on the deaths of four deeply troubled teenagers between 2016 and 2018.

Seven months after being discharged from mental health services she went missing and 'her body was found a few days later'

A 16-year-old girl, referred to as ‘Mary’ had three care placements that failed to meet her needs. She “made a number of serious suicide attempts that were escalating in frequency”. Her last placement had neither night staff cover nor the therapeutic community she needed, as this sort of placement “was not available in in this jurisdiction”. Two months later she took her own life.

‘Ava’ was 13 when she disclosed sexual abuse by a relative living in a different social work area. While social workers in the relative’s area interviewed her to assess any ongoing risk from the relative, social workers in her own area didn’t. Seven months after being discharged from mental health services she went missing and “her body was found a few days later”. Her mother was “left feeling ‘like a rabbit in the headlights’” with nowhere to turn for supports, says the review.

In the case of “extremely vulnerable’ ‘Declan’ who died of a suspected overdose in his mid-teens, his intellectual and physical challenges “were neither fully understood nor met in a co-ordinated way by the services”. ‘David’ (16), who died after an assault was never met by services. Staff told the NRP they had been dealing with a “high” volume of referrals.


The NRP’s most recent annual report, for 2019, looks at the “points of learning” most often noted in its first decade. These were “care planning, assessment, responding to the needs of children where parental omission is not a factor, inclusion of fathers, working with families that are reluctant to co-operate and co-ordination of services”. Each of these factored in the most recent reports. In the interests of vulnerable children and their families these points of learning must be acted on.