Wardship sought for care-leaver with multiple difficulties where CFA and HSE discussing who responsible for her care – 2022vol2#58

The High Court heard that the Child and Family Agency (CFA) and the Health Service Executive (HSE) were discussing who would provide appropriate care for a young woman who had been in care, was now in aftercare and her care was still being funded by the CFA. The court had previously made restrictive orders which had included detention orders and restrictions in relation to the use of smart phones and social media. The young woman had been admitted to wardship on the expiry of a care order.

The young woman had a mild intellectual disability and because the disability was mild she did not qualify for residential care from the HSE. The guardian ad litem (GAL) gave evidence that while she may fall within the mild intellectual disability ambit that could not be seen in isolation as she had a number of significant other needs, including attention deficit disorder, dyspraxia, and a disorder characterised by excessive hair pulling which fell under the umbrella of obsessive-compulsive disorders and anxiety. The GAL said taken her disability individually it would be easy to see why this young person did not meet the HSE criteria, but her difficulties had to be taken as whole and together they had a significant effect on her functioning.

The young woman was doing well in the current placement, but this was only meant to be temporary and a new placement had not been identified. A psychiatric assessment was due to be undertaken within the next few weeks and it was hoped this would aid in formulating a plan that would meet her needs and would assess her capacity.

The carer leaver was in contact with a friend and with her foster parents, whom she regarded as her parents because she had been taken into the care of the CFA when she was very young. She had an allocated aftercare worker.

The solicitor on behalf of the CFA said that section 45 of the Child Care Act did give the CFA a wide remit in relation to aftercare supports but there were limits. It was difficult to know how long the CFA would be able to continue to fund her placement. It was hoped she would transfer to the care of the HSE.

He said there was an interagency protocol policy to keep such cases as much as possible out of the courts, but this was a case where the CFA and the HSE had different views and the young person did not fit neatly into a category. However, he said representatives from the CFA and HSE had been in productive discussions to try to resolve this matter and it had been escalated to more senior managers in the HSE disability service.

At the request of both parties the judge continued the orders and listed the matter for review in three months’ time, where it was hoped there would be updated reports on the young person’s placement, and the psychiatric and multidisciplinary assessments would have been completed. The judge asked all parties to inform the young person that she would be most welcome to join that review.

Subsequent hearing

When the matter came back before the High Court the judge extended all the orders associated with the wardship, which included restricted access to social media and smart phones, but accepted that young people do not use landlines.

The CFA had continued to fund the young woman’s care and placement. In court were representatives from the CFA, the HSE, the GAL, the committee for the young woman and the young woman herself joined the proceedings by video link.

The CFA solicitor stated the young woman remained in a placement that was meeting her needs, but the placement was isolated and she wanted to return to the city from which she had come. He said the current orders restricted the young woman’s access to social media and use of smart phones as these activities had caused her too much distress. He said that while the CFA had continued to fund the placement when the care leaver had been admitted to wardship, as she had been in wardship for some time the CFA now wished to discharge the young woman from their care.

The representative from the HSE said they had been collaborating with the young woman and had hoped to secure a placement for her that would meet her needs. It was hoped a placement would be identified imminently and the young woman would remain where she was until then. In response the CFA solicitor said that the CFA would continue to fund this placement if it was weeks but not if it was months. He continued that the young woman was now a ward of court and the HSE were responsible for her care funding.

The GAL said efforts were ongoing by the HSE to secure a placement for her in or near the city and she was hopeful this would be forthcoming. The young woman remained vulnerable and struggled with emotional and behavioural outbursts. She had recommended the committee of the young woman request an independent social work assessment. She said she had requested the HSE disability service to refer the young woman for a speech and language assessment and that she have access to psychology services. The GAL said that the young woman’s request for a tattoo and plastic surgery had to be considered by the professional team caring for her.

The young woman was invited to address the court by the judge. She said that she wanted access to an iPad because she wanted to take selfies and upload posts about her father who had recently died. She said; “I have used a landline to call my friend but that was for old people.” She wanted to move back the city as she felt isolated where she was as she had no friends locally. She stated she wanted a tattoo.

The judge said that the young woman, the ward, lacked capacity, was vulnerable, required 24-hour care and her judgment was impaired. The orders that were part of the wardship, included detention orders and orders that restricted her use of social media and smart phones, were to continue.

The judge denied the young woman’s request for an iPAD as he said that it is the same as a smart phone, however he requested that the staff at the placement facilitate some contact with her friends in an age-appropriate manner and accepted young people do not use landlines.

The judge thanked the CFA for their continued funding of the placement but asked the HSE to use all resources to secure a placement and accepted there was no evidence of delay on their part. He also supported the recommendations of the GAL for an independent social work assessment to ensure all the young woman’s needs were being met. He adjourned the matter for four months.