The High Court will rule later on challenges brought over a policy of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, to defer decisions on whether at risk children should be placed in special care until a place actually becomes available.
During the hearing, Ms Justice Mary Faherty was told by the agency that resource issues, particularly the difficulty in getting appropriately trained staff for special care units, cannot be blamed on the agency.
Two separate challenges to the policy have been brought on behalf of two teenage boys described as having chaotic lifestyles resulting in their lives, health and safety being put at risk.
Several weeks ago, the boys were deemed by the agency’s National Special Care Referrals Committee to be at immediate risk and requiring to be placed in special care units.
Despite meeting the criteria, it is claimed the agency deliberately delays making applications for court orders allowing it place the at risk child in a secure special care unit. Due to the CFA’s policy, the two boys remain at large and at risk, it is claimed.
Their lawyers argue the agency should not delay making applications for special care orders and its policy breaches its obligations to protect children.
In their proceedings, the boys, represented by Michael Lynn SC and Gerard Durcan SC, seek orders quashing the agency’s decisions to defer its duty to comply with provisions of the 1991 Child Care in respect of the teens pending placement in special care facilities becoming available for them.
The boys also seek various declarations including that the agency has failed to protect and vindicate their rights by failing to provide them with special care placements and appropriate educational and therapeutic supports.
Conor Dignam SC, for the agency, said its policy does not breach the boys constitutional rights or its obligations. There are resource issues in the area of special care and the problems in regard to special care placements could not be laid at the door of the agency, he argued.
If the applicants are successful, there was a danger the agency would not be able to comply with any orders made by the court which would be “unworkable”.
Ms Justice Faherty reserved her decision and said she would try and give her judgment as quickly as possible.