HSE must inform Minister of its failure to comply with regulations – 2013vol2#19

The HSE was ordered by a judge to inform the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs that it had failed to comply with the regulations for the assessment of relative foster carers. The child is the subject of an Interim Care Order and has been in foster care with a relative for over a year.

When the court was asked to renew the order the solicitor for the HSE said there had been difficulties in getting the foster carers, who are related to the child, to engage with them and that the HSE might have to consider its position in relation to them. The child was placed in care due to his mother’s mental incapacity to look after him and she is currently in hospital. The court was told that because of difficulties with the foster carers, the HSE had not been able to conduct a formal assessment of their suitability in spite of the requirement to carry out such an assessment within 12 weeks of placement in emergency situations.

The judge said the HSE was in clear breach of the regulations and that the emergency situation had long since expired. “You have placed a child with relative carers in breach of your own regulations. That’s what you have done and you continue to do it,” he said. “What’s the point of having regulations if they have not been complied with? The regulations stand and you are in breach of them.” The father’s barrister said the father supported the placement of the child with the relatives as he believed the child was happy there. “That’s not the point,” the judge replied.

The judge directed the HSE to report the breach of the Regulations to the Minister within seven days. He also directed that the court be furnished with a copy of the Minister’s response. “This is not a marginal breach. The child has been there for over 12 months,” he said. “It renders the Regulations meaningless. It is patently clear this placement was not in accordance with the Statutory Instrument and it is not a tenable position,” he said.

The court was told that, since the child was placed in care, disclosures of alleged sexual abuse had been made by him and he had been referred to a specialist unit dealing with such allegations. The judge also expressed his concern over the delay in having this matter investigated but noted that steps were now being taken and the allegations should be dealt with as soon as possible. He said the mother was entitled to have them investigated in a timely manner.