The Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman, has confirmed to Aontú Leader Peadar Tóibín TD that his Department has deleted three out of four reports pertaining to children in care, which were sent to him by retired judge Simms some months ago.
The confirmation comes as Deputy Tóibín sought access to the reports via a Parliamentary Question.
Speaking to Meath Live Tóibín said, “The Minister for Children’s actions are impossible to comprehend. The Minister is directly responsible to ensure the safety of children in state care. A retiring judge stuck his neck out to bring very serious matters to the attention of the Minister for Children. Judge Simms wrote to the Minister in May expressing his alarm over the welfare of children in the care of the State. In his letter he referred to “child A, age nine, in the care of the CFA”, Judge Simms said that “with his parents’ approval and permission and the consent of the CFA”, he was including a report produced by the child’s Guardian Ad Litem outlining the child’s circumstances. The judge also included with his letter a report relating to another child for whom finding a placement was proving difficult – the report also made mention to SEA (Special Emergency Accommodation) which are unapproved and unregulated placements”.
Deputy Tóibín continued: “I have had much contact with social workers on the ground who are very concerned about SEAs, in particular in relation to the astronomical amount of funding devoted to them, the lack of vetting procedures and qualifications of staff and the level of care to children in emergency accommodation. Following these concerns I asked the Minister if he would furnish me with copies of the reports. This week he replied saying that on foot of GDPR concerns three out of the four reports have been deleted upon receipt by his Department. This is crazy stuff – the idea that rather than acting on the very serious allegations and disclosures made by Judge Simms and the reports attached, the Minister instead opted to delete the correspondence”.
“This is clearly a GDPR overreach. The Minister, I fear, is using GDPR as cover for a lack of action and the scandalous use of SEAs. The ‘in camera rule’ is also preventing us from getting to the crux of these issues. I’ve had people come to me who want to talk about what happened in court, but I have to caution them that it would be against the law to talk to me. They’ve told me they tried to talk to the gardaí, but the in camera rule has prevented them from even doing that. Now the Minister, it seems, is deleting correspondence from a retired judge even though the children are anonymised in the reports, citing GDPR. Our care system is at breaking point – and Aontú believes we need better funding for voluntary care providers, much stronger regulation of Special Emergency Accommodation, better pay for foster families, more foster families and more social workers. The people working at the coal face of social care in this country – particularly private voluntary care providers – are becoming increasingly frustrated, especially in light of the seemingly poor standards of the SEAs and the savage funding those entities are receiving from the State”, concluded Tóibín.