A ROW between Tusla and the HSE over what constitutes severe disability is leaving almost 400 disabled Limerick foster children without proper services.
And the Ombudsman for Children has lashed the HSE for its stance which he describes as “not good enough”.
A year on from Molly’s Case, a report published by the Ombudsman for Children in 2018, the HSE and Tusla are still not in agreement on the number of children in Limerick with disabilities who are in care.
Molly is a child with a severe disability who is in foster care. She was abandoned at birth by her biological parents and has grown up with her foster family after being placed there when she was four months old.
Molly’s foster carer made a complaint to the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) about the level of supports and services being provided by Tusla and the HSE.
“We found that this was an issue affecting 471 other children and we called on both agencies to work together to improve the services being provided to these most vulnerable children,” a statement from the Ombudsman said.
“Twelve months on, we are returning to this case and we have found that while Tusla has now identified 483 children with a moderate or severe disability in their care, the HSE is not in agreement on this figure as they cannot agree on the definition of a child with moderate or severe disability.”
According to the HSE, the identification of children with disabilities who are in care is still ‘in progress’ in Community Health Organisation area 3 which covers Limerick.
Speaking following the publication of ‘Molly One Year On’, the Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon said: “Since last year some definite progress has been made, particularly for Molly herself but the working relationship between Tusla and the HSE is still of concern. It is not good enough that the HSE still has not identified the children in question.
“These children are among the most vulnerable in the country. Many of them are nonverbal and therefore literally have no voice.
“Everything possible should be done to plan for these children and to provide the care that they need. We must also ensure that foster carers looking after these children are fully supported and that they are not fighting for services.
“I will continue to monitor these issues for the next twelve months, engaging with both the HSE and Tusla,” Dr Muldoon added.