Press release from Ms Mary Hanafin TD, Minister of State with special responsibility for children
on the Social Services Inspectorate’s Report of Findings relating to Inspection of Children’s Residential Centres
Minister Hanafin was presented with the report of the Findings Relating to Inspection of Children’s Residential Centres by the Social Services Inspectorate (SSI) today (10 October 2000). Minister Hanafin welcomed the publication of the report and acknowledged the work of the SSI in carrying out the inspections which led to the report. Minister Hanafin noted that the report is the first part of a comprehensive programme of inspection of the residential child care services in Ireland. Minister Hanafin said that “the purpose of the report is to highlight areas where improvements can be made within the residential care setting to ensure that those most vulnerable children who are in residential care are provided with the best care possible.”
Minister Hanafin said that the Government decision to establish the SSI was an important one and she was pleased to note that the 0inspection process had been widely welcomed by those responsible for the operation of residential child care services and by those whose job entailed the delivery of the service.
Minister Hanafin was concerned with a number of aspects of the report. Eight key themes have been identified and the Department of Health & Children is in on-going contact with the health boards to assist in whatever way possible in the implementation of the individual recommendations.
There are two particular areas that require a national response:
- staffing and training and
- the establishment of a set of national standards that would cover both the voluntary and the statutory sector homes.
Staffing and Training
Minister Hanafin noted with concern the numbers of unqualified staff working in residential care and she said “This issue is to be addressed as a matter of urgency. The need for new social worker posts has been identified and there is currently a proposal to increase the number of social work training posts by 68 per annum from October 2001.” Minister Hanafin said that in-training and post qualification training needed to be developed and that discussions were taking place in this regard with IMPACT and the professional and education bodies. The Minister is also anxious to regularise the problem of temporary posts in the Child Care area.
Draft national standards for residential care were prepared last year for the SSI inspection programme and these need now to be amended and finalised. Minister Hanafin has asked that the standards sub-committee re-examine the draft and has also asked the Special Residential Services Board, which she established this year, to examine how the standards should apply uniformly to all children’s residential homes.
Minister Hanafin noted with concern that health boards were not adhering to their statutory duty to prepare care plans for each child in their care. She has raised this matter directly with the health board CEOs and pointed out that “The Health Boards not only have a statutory duty but also a moral responsibility to ensure that each child has a care plan to meet individual needs.”
Another area highlighted as requiring improvement relates to leaving care. Minister Hanafin noted that in view of the considerable resources which go towards bringing children into the care system and supporting them within it that it is therefore very important that adequate resources also go towards the development and implementation of a leaving care policy. Minister Hanafin referred to a pilot project to be based in the Mid-Western Health Board which she announced in July of this year, allocating £1 million over a three year period to develop a care model and associated guidelines material for child care personnel. This project will ensure that all children are helped to re-integrate back into society and into the family setting upon leaving the care of the State.
Minister Hanafin said that “The main aims of residential care should be to protect children and to help them reintegrate back into their families where possible and into the community. The involvement of parents and extended family members in the ongoing lives of children in care is essential”.
Prevention and Early Intervention
Minister Hanafin reiterated her commitment to early intervention as central in preventing children coming into the care of the State by means of the identification and tackling of problems at an early stage. She is also committed to supporting foster carers in the belief that the family setting is the best place for a child.
In conclusion Minister Hanafin said that she regarded the work of the SSI as crucial to the effective care and protection of children in residential care and that she believed that it would support the work of many dedicated and caring staff and she hoped that this report would in some way help to improve the lives of those most vulnerable children for whom the residential care setting is often their last hope.