Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs, Anne Rabbitte TD, has expressed her serious concerns regarding a report published by the National Review Panel. The report investigated the deaths of all children who died last year who were either in the care of Túsla or known to the agency.
Deputy Rabbitte commented:
This report found that five babies and one toddler, whose mothers had drug or alcohol abuse problems, died last year. The National Review Panel found that these deaths were ‘associated with maternal substance misuse’. It is concerning that in some cases, social workers had taken ‘an overly optimistic view’ of parents’ ability to cope with childrearing responsibilities. This is something which I have heard before from people involved in the child protection services, from foster parents to social workers.
Deputy Rabbitte continued:
This report highlights two worrying aspects of Ireland’s child protection services. In the first instance, we know that social workers are often so burned out and overburdened that they are simply unable to provide adequate support to children and parents. We need to take a serious look at supporting social workers in the discharging of their professional duties and look at new ways of improving this service. Secondly, it is nonsensical that social workers are often working in a vacuum away from other support services, such as drug treatment and mental health services. We need to see greater co-operation between Túsla and other State agencies.
Deputy Rabbitte concluded:
Parents experiencing considerable mental health and substance abuse issues will understandably find it difficult to care for their children in a consistent and loving manner. They need help with these issues, and it is deeply worrying that social workers cannot ensure that they are given access to the supports necessary to do so. This has to be addressed urgently otherwise children will continue to be left in vulnerable situations.