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[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Priority questions - Children in care. (03 Nov 2011)

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4. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she agrees with Dr. Helen Buckley that the workload of the National Review Panel is virtually impossible to carry out owing to the number and breadth of inquiries it must investigate; if she intends to assign more resources to the panel; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32622/11]  

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: In January 2010, HIQA published Guidance for the Health Service Executive for the Review of Serious Incidents including Deaths of Children in Care. The guidance became operational from March 2010. The guidance required the HSE to establish a panel of appropriately skilled professionals, both internal and external, to review cases under specified criteria. According to the HIQA guidance, the panel should have an independent chair and deputy chair and professionals from a range of disciplines appointed for their professional expertise.
In accordance with the HIQA guidance, last year, the HSE established a national review panel to undertake these reviews. Dr. Helen Buckley, senior lecturer and research fellow at the school of social work and social policy, Trinity College Dublin, was appointed as chair. Dr. Bill Lockhart, retired CEO, Youth Justice Agency, Northern Ireland, was appointed as deputy chair. There are 20 ordinary members on the panel, 18 of whom are external to the HSE. In addition, a senior professional manager and a senior administrative manager were assigned to support the work of the panel. While the national review panel has been established under the auspices of the HSE, it remains functionally independent, making findings of fact and producing reports that are objective and independent of the HSE.
I thank Dr. Buckley and all involved in the recent report. The 2010 annual report covers the period from March to December 2010. During this period, 22 cases of death were notified and eight serious incidents. Of the 22 deaths, reported, six of these were due to natural causes, four were drugs overdoses, four were as the result of suicide, four were due to road traffic accidents, two were homicide and two were as a result of accidents other than road traffic accidents.
The report states that the criteria for the cases to be reviewed are broad by international standards. This is an important point to note. The report also states: “the NRP is concerned that the HIQA guidance places virtually impossible obligations on it. The combination of timelines, detail required and unanticipated volume of notifications presents difficulties for the NRP that were never intended.” The national review panel report goes on to suggest ways in which the process of reviewing serious incidents and child deaths could be improved.
Additional material not given on the floor of the House.
Furthermore the report states:
Is it necessary, or even beneficial, for every case to be reviewed? It would, and perhaps, should, be possible for the independent chair of the NRP to select representative cases from which a maximum of learning can be extracted without running the risk, as has happened in other jurisdictions, of services being drowned in a flood of similar conclusions and recommendations.
Given the fact that this is a new process, it is not surprising that the review panel has remarked on the nature of the process itself and challenges in putting into operation the HIQA guidance. The HIQA has already agreed to review the guidance and are engaging actively with the national review panel and the HSE children and family services in this regard. These are matters which will be considered by the HIQA in the first instance and by my officials in the context of related policy and legislative developments already in train.
The first annual report of the NRP is the subject of consideration by the HSE and I would expect that any measures falling directly to the HSE which are necessary to strengthen the effectiveness of the review process will be implemented.
Priority Questions - Children in Care
Thursday, 3 November 2011
Vol. 745 No. 3
Item Type
Dail Debates
Publication Type
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Harm reduction, Policy
3 November 2011

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