Group calls for more social workers for children in careThursday 04 February 2016 10.56
An advocacy group for young people in care has called on the State to apologise to the young people at the centre of the foster care scandal and to promptly allocate social workers to almost 450 children in care here.
The 450 children represent the one in 14 of the total number of children in care.
EPIC says this is one of the key actions which would provide greater protection to children in care, and particularly to the most vulnerable among them, those with disabilities.
In a statement, the organisation says the recent revelations that two young women with intellectual disabilities were left in an abusive foster care home despite evidence it was unsafe highlights yet again the exceptional vulnerability of our children in the care of the state.
EPIC's Director, Jennifer Gargan, says these young women and their families must receive an official apology and an acknowledgement of the wrong that has been done to them.
She says it is even more important that the proposed Commission of Investigation finds out how and why this abuse of vulnerable young people was allowed to happen and continue for many years and to prevent it happening ever again.
"As corporate parent the State has a statutory and moral responsibility for the protection and welfare of all children in its care.
"It has failed to do this in the past and needs to act now to make sure that we do not repeat the failures of the past and allow this horrendous abuse of our most vulnerable children to happen again."
She says Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has published figures showing that last October 443 children in care - or 7% of the total - had no allocated social worker.
She says allocating a social worker would be one of the key actions which would provide greater protection to children in care, and particularly for those with disabilities who are the most vulnerable.
"We have seen report after report published, now is the time for actions to be implemented," she says.
EPIC says it is the only organisation that specifically advocates on behalf of children and young people in State care, and it knows the importance of listening to each child individually and the significance of having a strong relationship with an independent advocate as a means of helping to protect against child abuse.
The organisation says it has seen a significant increase in the numbers of children with disabilities being referred to its Advocacy Service.
"Many of these children are in care but some are placed in residential services without any clarity about their legal status. Whilst adults with disabilities have a right to an independent advocate this is not the case for these children," Ms Gargan said.