THE Health Service Executive and Tusla are still not in agreement on the number of children in Cork with disabilities who are in care, more than a year after they committed to finding out.
In January 2018, Ombudsman Niall Muldoon published the findings of an investigation into a complaint made on behalf of a teenager who has Down syndrome and severe autism and was abandoned at birth.
The girl’s foster carer complained to the Ombudsman for Children’s Office about the level of support and services being provided by child and family agency, Tusla, and the HSE.
The report, ‘Molly’s Case’, determined that the lack of coordination between the HSE and Tusla meant the level of service and support was insufficient.
The Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) found that similar issues were affecting 471 other children and called on both agencies to work together to improve the services being provided to these most vulnerable children.
Tusla confirmed that it would carry out a review of the current supports available to Molly.
The HSE, meanwhile, said it would conduct a review of all cases where children in foster care require support.
Twelve months later, Tusla has now identified 483 children with a moderate or severe disability in their care.
But the HSE is not in agreement on this figure as they cannot agree on the definition of a child with moderate or severe disability.
According to the HSE, the identification of children with disabilities who are in care is still ‘in progress’ in Community Health Organisation (CHO) area 4 which covers Cork and Kerry.
The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon said that while progress has been made, particularly for Molly herself, the working relationship between Tusla and the HSE is still “of concern”.
“It is not good enough that the HSE still has not identified the children in question,” he added.
“These children are among the most vulnerable in the country.
“Many of them are nonverbal and therefore literally have no voice,” said Dr Muldoon.
“Everything possible should be done to plan for these children and to provide the care that they need.
“We must also ensure that foster carers looking after these children are fully supported and that they are not fighting for services.
“I will continue to monitor these issues for the next twelve months, engaging with both the HSE and Tusla.”