Jennifer Whitmore TD

Desperate parents forced to leave children behind in hospitals, special schools and residential centres due to lack of State supports

A new report showing that children with complex disabilities are being denied the right to grow up at home with their families should be a source of deep shame and embarrassment for the Government, according to Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore.

Deputy Whitmore, who is the party’s spokesperson on children, said:

The ‘Nowhere to Turn’ report, published today by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO), is extremely troubling. It highlights how some desperate parents are making the impossible decision to leave their children behind in hospital emergency departments, residential centres and special schools because they are unable to access the proper supports and services needed to care for them at home.

“The report reveals how some children can remain in these inappropriate settings for weeks – or even months – due to the HSE’s failure to ensure an adequate range of placement options if they cannot return home.

“This is not a decision that any parent would make lightly and reflects the extraordinary pressures placed on households where there are children with complex, additional needs.

Dr Niall Muldoon, the Ombudsman for Children, has pointed out that a child’s right to grow up within their family is protected in the Constitution, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

“In 2020, the OCO issued a number of recommendations following an investigation into the case of a boy with profound disabilities, who was left in a hospital setting for over two years beyond medical need. Despite the HSE accepting and committing to take on these recommendations, three years have since passed without key strategic measures being implemented.

“In response to this shameful report, the Minister for Health and Minister of State for Disability must immediately instruct the HSE to action the OCO’s recommendations without further delay.

“No child with a disability in Ireland deserves to be stuck in the wrong setting or left without the right supports.”

September 5, 2023

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