High Court rules that the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) breaches of its statutory duty has resulted in two sixteen-year-old vulnerable teenagers suffering grave harm.
Two teenagers at the centre of the dispute had been awaiting assessment by Tusla for special care. Both teenagers had a troubled upbringing and were currently engaging in high-risk behaviour. One of the teenagers, a girl, is currently in state care and has been going missing regularly. She has engaged in alcohol and drug use and Tusla staff has gave concern that she is being sexually exploited. The other teenager, a boy who has been diagnosed as autistic, has been taking a cocktail of drugs and has been drug dealing. He is currently in emergency care because there had been concerns that he may harm himself or others.
Special care is provided where children might be at risk to themselves. Additional supports are provided to the child when special care orders are made. There are three facilities providing special care in Ireland.
Lack of available places
Tusla has stated that it does not have sufficient staff in special care facilities to make beds available for these children. Tusla informed the court that the issue is related to staff shortages and not a lack of financial resources within the organisation. It asked the court not to make any orders because it does not have the staff to comply.
High Court determination
Mr Justice Heslin of the High Court issued a ruling late last week. The judge determined that Tusla’s continued failure to determine whether the two at-risk teenagers were in need of special care was a violation of the organisation’s statutory duty. The judge emphasised that the court ruling did not criticise the staff of Tusla who too had been working under difficult conditions, given the staff shortages. The judge directed that a copy of the court judgment be sent to officials at both the Department of Children and Public Expenditure.