Judges increasingly frustrated by ‘failings’ in care system

Judges increasingly frustrated by 'failings' in care system

Dr Maria Corbett

The lack of available appropriate placements for children in care and judicial concern about some vulnerable children in care mark the latest volume of reports published by the Child Law Project (CLP) today.

This volume comprises 67 reports: 62 from the District Court, four High Court cases related to wardship proceedings and one comprising a letter from a District Court judge expressing concerns.

In the letter, sent to government ministers, State bodies and an Oireachtas committee in May, Judge Dermot Simms expresses his “utmost concern for the immediate predicament and welfare of children who are in care”, highlighting the placement of children in unsuitable special emergency residential placements due to a lack of care placements.

Judge Simms notes that: “There is also the risk, or indeed likelihood, that the State will face claims in the future arising out of its failure to comply adequately with its duty of care and statutory duty to many of these children.”

Dr Maria Corbett, CEO of the Child Law Project, said: “Today we publish Judge Simms’ letter as part of our role of bringing transparency to child care proceedings. We share the judge’s concerns and echo his call for urgent action.

“Our reports illustrate that the lack of appropriate placements is having a detrimental effect on the care system. Today we publish examples of placements being ended in an unplanned manner, children being placed far from their families, and vulnerable children in unregistered emergency settings, which fall outside of the usual inspection regime.

“Such practices undermine 20 years of progress and risk Ireland breaching its international human rights obligations.”

She added: “CLP reporters are increasingly seeing examples of cases returning to court as the placement has broken down or where the judge is keeping the case under active review as a means of ensuring agreed actions are followed through.

“In at least 10 cases published today, the judge expresses concern about the actions or inactions of state bodies. We believe this reflects a growing concern and frustration on the part of the judiciary.”

The full volume of 67 case reports is now available from the Child Law Project website.

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