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11 Sept, 2023 - Press Release 'IASW Responds to the Ombudsman Report'

The Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW) welcomes the Ombudsman for Children's (OCO) timely report: “Nowhere To Turn: Children with disabilities left with no support.”

There is an urgent need for equitable access to respite care, provision of enhanced supports for families in crisis, and regulation of residential and Home Sharing placements, for children with complex disabilities.

The OCO's report exposes the realities faced by parents of children with complex disabilities who are more and more frequently, forced to make heart-breaking decisions to look for ways to care for their children outside of the family home. These decisions stem from the severe lack of adequate support and preventative planning. No family should ever have to face the unthinkable dilemma of having to believe that their best option, to provide the care their child needs, is to leave their loved one in a hospital, a school, or respite centre.

This situation is intolerable and IASW agrees with the Ombudsman that it violates the rights of children to grow up within their family and community.

Social Workers on Children’s Disability Network Teams (CDNTs) throughout the country regularly witness this heart-breaking reality, as they strive to support families in crisis.

Social Workers are professionally trained to assess and identify when additional supports are required for families caring for children with complex needs.  Social Workers face ongoing challenges in accessing the required respite or alternative supports to prevent family crisis situations and are often left to manage high-risk situations without any clear pathways for action.

There is no clear, standardised, or effective escalation pathway for these children and families who require enhanced or crisis respite care. This includes those who require residential or alternative out of home care.  Currently there is also uneven and inequitable access to the various types of respite support across the country.

The disparities in access to respite services based on geographic location, diagnosis, or school attendance must be eliminated. Families should not be forced to endure prolonged distress due to the lack of comprehensive respite support.

IASW wholeheartedly echoes the concerns and recommendations in the OCO report and proposes the following actions to address the issues:

  1. The establishment of a National Review Group on Respite and Residential Placement Provision for children with complex disabilities.
  2. That Review Group to make recommendations on the suite of respite options required to meet the varying needs of children with complex disabilities throughout the country. These could include afterschool clubs, weekend day respite, in/out of home support hours, short breaks in family settings, overnight residential respite with appropriately trained staff.
  3. Development of national standardised prioritisation, waitlist, and review protocols for the management of respite services, implemented in an equitable and consistent way throughout the country.
  4. Development of clear Standard Operating Procedures and escalation pathways to support children and families in crisis, to prevent family breakdown and to smooth the route for those children that need residential placements or an alternative out-of-home regulated placement.
  5.  Establishment of realistic, ring-fenced budgets for Children’s Disability Services to provide comprehensive packages of respite and residential placements when needed.
  6. Provision of suitable enhanced respite care/high support care packages for those families in crisis, to maintain their child's placement at home and to avoid, where possible, residential care and the prolonged and inappropriate use of acute hospital beds.
  7. A clear and standard structure for oversight, governance, and agency responsibilities for children with a complex disability in HSE-funded residential settings is timely and critical.

IASW is committed to continuing to advocate for the vital reforms needed to ensure that no family is left without the support they need in caring for children with complex needs and disabilities.

IASW Spokesperson: Vivian Geiran via the office on 086 0241055

Read Nowhere to Turn here