CONCERNS were raised about the welfare and safety of more than 1,300 children across Limerick last year, according to new figures disclosed by the Health Service Executive.
A total of 1,347 reports on individual cases were received from the gardai and concerned individuals about the care of children in Limerick last year - a 36% increase on the figures for 2007, which city councillors have described as “alarming”.
The reports refer to child protection and welfare concerns, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse, as well as neglect. The reports were forwarded to the HSE by other childcare agencies, the gardai, as well as concerned individuals and families, and the number of reports received for 2012 is expected to be even greater.
Kevin O’Farrell, area manager for children and family services in the HSE Mid-west, said there has been a “significant increase in the number of child welfare reports, which are increasing year on year.”
Speaking at a joint policing committee in City Hall, he said there continues to be an increase in the number of children being brought into care, and they are trying to recruit more foster carers.
Mr O’Farrell said the increase in children coming forward is due to the mental health of some parents, as well as issues of self-harm and suicide. “A rise in serious drug use has impacted on families we work with,” he added.
“There’s a significant rise in the numbers of children coming into care and they are more likely to remain in care as it’s not safe for them to return home. Children are presenting with much more complex difficulties than they would have in the past,” he said.
He said foster carers are needed for emergency periods, short-term and long-term stays, and urged anyone interested to contact their office.
There are 209 approved foster families in Limerick, but the HSE is urging other suitable candidates to come forward due to the great need to find homes for neglected children of all ages, including those who are one day old up to the age of 18.
At any one time he said there are up to 12 children in private foster care in the Mid-West, as their resources in Limerick are currently stretched.
Fine Gael councillor Michael Hourigan, chairman of the joint policing committee, said the statistics were “frightening”.