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State warned of risks over children in care

17 Jul 2023 / justice Print

State warned of risks over children in care

A retired District Court judge has written to a number of ministers and State institutions expressing his “utmost concern for the immediate predicament and welfare of children who are in care”.

Judge Dermot Simms of the Dublin Metropolitan District wrote the letter in May, when he was still on the bench.

He warned of “the risk, or indeed likelihood” that the State would face future claims “arising out of its failure to comply adequately with its duty of care and statutory duty to many of these children”.

The judge drew attention to the placement of children in unsuitable special emergency residential placements, due to a lack of care placements.

He also sent a copy of the letter and accompanying documents to the Child Law Project, giving the organisation permission to publish the letter.

‘Systemic failures’

In the letter, Judge Simms said that he had been told that the Child and Family Agency (CFA) Tusla was in an “unprecedented crisis”.

He added that this was due to a lack of properly regulated, suitable placements for foster care, residential placements and special care, as well as a shortage of qualified staff at the agency.

In his letter, Judge Simms blamed the crisis on a range of systemic failures, not just in the CFA, but also in its interactions with other State agencies – including the HSE, CAMHS, the education system, the Irish Prison Service and an Garda Síochána.

Alongside the letter, he also included copies of six reports – including examples the types of cases involving children that had featured in his court “on a daily basis”.

“It is my earnest hope that immediate and co-ordinated action will be taken to address and remedy the crisis, which indeed may ultimately mitigate possible future claims against the State,” the judge concluded. 

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