Increase in Roma children not being vaccinated, report finds

Thursday 10 April 2014 20.41
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A report found many Roma mothers are hiding their babies from public health nurses
A report found many Roma mothers are hiding their babies from public health nurses
Many families cannot satisfy the Department of Social Protection's habitual residency condition
Many families cannot satisfy the Department of Social Protection's habitual residency condition

The removal by gardaí and the Health Service Executive of two blonde Roma children from their families last year has prompted more Roma mothers not to get their children vaccinated, according to a new report.

It found the resulting increase in Roma distrust of the authorities is adding to what it calls "systematic failures on the part of the State to protect vulnerable Roma children".

In 2012, Pavee Point, which advocates for Roma people in Ireland, convened focus groups involving gardaí, HSE personnel and others working with Roma.

A report from last year on the discussions said many social workers were fearful that many Roma have such meagre statutory entitlements and supports that taking children into care could seem like the "best" option.

It explained that many families, originally from Central and Eastern Europe, cannot satisfy the Department of Social Protection's habitual residency condition and therefore do not qualify for child benefit, medical cards and other supports.

This had resulted in deprivation, including hunger, which shocked many of the focus group professionals.

In another report published today on maternal health, Pavee Point said the controversial removal of the two blonde Roma children, and their subsequent return to their families, has exacerbated Roma distrust of officialdom.

The organisation said it is leading many mothers of newborn babies to hide from public health nurses, thus depriving their babies of vaccinations.

The report also said that many expectant Roma mothers significantly delay accessing medical care, in some cases until they are already in labour.

It calls on the Government to develop a progressive National Traveller Roma Integration Strategy, noting that the European Commission has criticised the current one for meeting only four out of its 22 criteria.