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County council 'failed' disabled child
[Posted: Wed 24/01/2007 www.irishhealth.com]
By Deborah Condon
A county council failed to provide appropriate housing to a child with a severe disability and then failed to review the case for almost four years, during which time the child's health deteriorated, an investigation by the Ombudsman for Children has revealed.
According to the Ombudsman, Emily Logan, in 2005, her office received a complaint from the mother of a child with an advanced form of a progressive and disabling disease. The mother was complaining about the manner in which her application for suitable housing had been handled by her local authority, Fingal County Council in Dublin.
The woman had made an application to the housing authority in 2000 on the basis of her son's long-term needs. She was offered a house at that time but she rejected it as it had not been adapted for her son.
Following this, the case was not reviewed for almost four years. This was despite numerous approaches to Fingal by advocates, including medical professionals. During this time, the physical health of the child in question deteriorated.
The Office of the Ombudsman investigated the complaint and found that the case had not been reviewed by Fingal from December 2000 to August 2004. Furthermore during that period, 11 identical, generic letters were sent to the mother and her advocates.
"Four years is a long time in any child's life, but it is an inordinate amount of time for a child with a progressive illness. The inaction by the local authority, which delayed the decision to find suitable housing for the family, had adversely affected the child. This has affected the child's general quality of life, freedom, independence and dignity", Ms Logan said.
She noted that Fingal did 'respond positively' to her report and the family in question has now been offered a house. This is currently being assessed by an architect and occupational therapist to determine how it can be adapted to meet the child's needs.
"However on a broader level, I have concerns that no appropriate mechanisms exist for interagency cooperation when it comes to considering and meeting the holistic needs of children with a disability", she said.
She called on the relevant departments to 'consider remedying this as a matter of priority'.
The Office of the Ombudsman for Children can be contacted at 1890 654 654.
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