Significant gaps in child mental health service exposed by report

By | June 8, 2021

Significant gaps in mental health services for children, which make it difficult for them to get appropriate treatment, have been highlighted in a new report.

n one case, a disturbed young boy thought to be a risk to his mother and siblings could not get a suitable residential placement as he was too young for special care, which is open only to children between the ages of 11 and 18.

In another case, no inpatient bed could be found for a teenager with “significant and immediate” mental health issues.

The gaps in services are highlighted in the report published today by the Child Care Law Reporting Project (CCLRP).

The project was launched in 2013 after the law was changed to allow reporting on cases involving orders under the Child Care Act.

Since then it has highlighted many important issues relating to children in the care system that might otherwise have got no public attention.

Difficulties children had accessing appropriate treatment for mental health issues featured in four of the 53 cases outlined in its latest report.

“It is very concerning that it appears so difficult for children with mental health problems to receive the assessments and treatment they need, including inpatient treatment, in a timely manner,” said CCLRP director Dr Carol Coulter.

“Children’s mental health facilities clearly need increased resources.”

One of the cases related to a child of primary school age who was considered a risk to his mother and siblings.

Due to his young age, no suitable special residential placement was available, but an interim care order was made by a court nonetheless, and he remained at home with supports from Tusla, the child and family agency. The boy was later the subject of an emergency care order when gardaí attended his home after he set a fire and threatened a neighbour with a knife.

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A lawyer for Tusla told a court the boy required a special residential placement but that, due to his very young age, it had been impossible to obtain one despite a nationwide search.

Despite his tender age, he was already drinking alcohol and using cannabis regularly. He was described as violent, abusive and showing no empathy for other people.

The boy was said to have been “out of control” since early childhood and his mother was black and blue with bruises she got from

A garda told the court the boy had been engaged in shoplifting and theft, and involved in a violent incident at his primary school.

The judge granted the extension of the interim care order for an additional 29 days but said he wanted to see the regional Tusla manager in court to explain the position.

Before the matter could come back to court, the judge was informed a place had been found for the boy in another part of the country.

In another case, a district court was told there was no inpatient bed available for a teenager with significant mental health issues who had been involved in 37 incidents known to gardaí.

This included what gardaí deemed “a hostage and/or ­suicide incident”.

The parents’ barrister said a secure care placement had originally been considered, but the parents felt a private placement was more suitable to the teenager’s needs, as he was “very vulnerable”.

The lawyer said Tusla was offering the boy only a bed in emergency accommodation for homeless children.

A Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services report had referred the boy for inpatient assessment but did not consider him to be an “immediate risk”.

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