A judge in Dublin District Court threatened to serve a witness summons on the Department of Education in a case where a child in care was almost 15 and had not had one day of secondary education. The judge said he was “incandescent with rage” that the child had not had any secondary education.
The guardian ad litem (GAL) for the child said the child could not maintain himself safely in secondary school and therefore suffered social exclusion. The GAL’s solicitor asked for the in camera rule to be lifted in order to share the GAL report with the Department of Education.
The judge had specific concerns about the case and stated he wished the Child Law Project to be aware of it. He said he wanted an official of the Department of Education to attend court and explain why the child’s educational needs were not being met.
There had been issues involving the child who had both mental health needs and anxiety issues.
When the case came before the court the solicitor for the GAL indicated that there had been some movement in the last number of days and hours, that the Department of Education had been in touch with the Child and Family Agency (CFA) and approval had been given for home tuition. A form had been handed in and backdated to mid-September approving seven hours per week up to December 2023. The court was told that the tuition would have to be reapplied for before December 2023. The court heard that a tutor had been approved but the issue had been getting the tutor to travel to the child.
The solicitor for the mother indicated that this had been an ongoing issue but that she welcomed the developments.
The solicitor for the GAL also welcomed the progress but said that the child had not sat one single day in secondary school and that the parent was sourcing a tutor. The court heard that the issue had been getting the tutor to travel to the child. The court was told that the State had a constitutional obligation to provide the child with education, however the onus was being put on the parent to source it.
The solicitor for the GAL informed the sitting judge hearing the matter on this day that another judge had had specific concerns about this case and had asked for the Child Law Project to be put on notice and in addition he was intending to issue a witness summons to the secretary general of the Department of Education. The solicitor said that they wanted the agreement reached to be implemented and the matter was then adjourned for implementation of the agreement. The CFA would need to resubmit a request for further tuition before the 1st of December and the tutor would have to travel to the child.
The solicitor for the GAL asked that the sitting judge be made aware of the fact that this development had happened and that it was on foot of this and the threat of the witness summons that progress had been made.
When the matter came back before the court again a social worker report was handed in. The court was updated that since the last court date a tutor had been identified and seven hours of tuition had been agreed where the CFA would pay for the travel expenses of the tutor. The issue was that the tutor was only getting paid for the hours they worked with the child and not their expenses. The tutor had to travel a distance to come to the child.
The court was told that the Department of Education had written to the CFA indicating that they would not be able to pay the travel expenses. The CFA confirmed that they would pay for the hours not covered by the funding that was granted up to December.
The mother’s solicitor said that she was agreeable to the review being adjourned until mid-December, however she said that the Department of Education should be paying and not the CFA filling in the gaps. The key point was that the child needed to get home tuition. She also raised a question as to whether the mother could have overnight access with the child who was currently in a residential placement. The social worker agreed to meet with the mother to discuss overnight access.
The judge said he wanted it to be noted that the Department of Education should be informed that the court was “incandescent with rage” and he said that the child’s rights needed to be vindicated. He asked for the Child Law Project to be present on the adjourned date in November. He made an order lifting the in camera rule as requested and said that a witness summons could be issued further down the road if required.