Latest volume of child care law reports highlights ‘gaps’ in mental health care

Latest volume of child care law reports highlights 'gaps' in mental health care

Dr Carol Coulter

The High Court’s oversight of the treatment of teenagers needing specialised therapeutic intervention, and the disproportionate number of children from ethnic minority backgrounds coming before the child protection courts, are highlighted in the latest volume of reports from the Child Care Law Reporting Project (CCLRP).

The independent project’s second volume of case reports for 2019, now available on its website, includes 55 new reports, of which 14 were in the High Court or involved children under the jurisdiction of the High Court.

There are 18 cases in which one or both parents were immigrants, or where the child was an unaccompanied migrant child.

Five involved cases where parents and children were being reunited, or where a supervision order was granted rather than a care order, leaving the children in their homes. There were two applications for support for children leaving care for adoption.

In the remaining cases, interim care orders or full care orders were granted due to the children being neglected or abused.

Dr Carol Coulter, director of the Child Care Law Reporting Project, said: “We are focusing on cases in the High Court in this volume because this small cohort of extremely vulnerable and troubled children raises a number of legal and policy issues that need to be addressed.

“As some High Court judges have stressed, the lack of secure beds must be resolved and the necessary resources provided so that they can be properly staffed, with incentives if necessary. Deficiencies in our mental health legislation also must be addressed so that all children in need of appropriate psychiatric and therapeutic care can receive it in this country.”

The cases which the CCLRP said were among the “most concerning” included those involving applications for “special care”, or secure care – detention in special units for therapeutic treatment and education – which the project has been attending since early 2013.

Reporters from the project have also recently attended cases where children are made wards of court, usually so that they can be sent abroad for treatment, either because Irish mental health legislation does not capture their particular mental health problems, or because their behavioural problems require very highly specialised treatment which does not exist here.

Such cases are among the 14 published in the latest volume, as well as an overview of these cases and of the judicial reviews which have teased out some of the difficult legal issues they raise, based on CCLRP’s coverage of the area for seven years.

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