herald

Tuesday 19 September 2017

Why the McAnaspie family are right to question HSE over tragic Daniel's death

Is the family of Daniel McAnaspie, murdered at 17 and left in a ditch, right to complain that the HSE failed to look after him while he was in their care?

It is still to early to say because we know so little about this awful story. But we know enough about the HSE and its lamentable child protection system to be able to say that we need a proper, independent investigation into what happened to Daniel.

He and a number of his siblings had been in the care of the HSE. Both parents of the six children had died.

His sister Catriona has complained that his life in care was one of being moved from place to place without ever getting to settle down.



fears

He was an early school-leaver with reading and writing difficulties.

During part of his short life he had relied on the HSE after-hours service.

This meant going to a garda station in the evening to find a bed for the night -- a hard life for an adult, let alone a teenager.

Catriona says she met the HSE to tell them of her fears for her brother's safety.

Before his death he left a HSE premises where he had been living. It seems he and a friend had gone to meet girls. He was never seen alive again.

We don't yet know whether Daniel was restless in HSE care. Many young people in care don't want to be there. They are young: they think they can handle life better than adults think they can.

I don't know if this was the case with Daniel and I have not written the above on the basis of any inside information about his case.

All I am saying is that there are two sides to every story.

I would like to know what the two sides are and that means I would like this awful case to be inquired into by somebody other than the HSE.

The HSE itself has promised a review with the panel made up of independent people. But when will we see the outcome of the review? Will we ever see it? Will we be relying on Fine Gael or Fianna Fail (who may be the main opposition party when it's completed) to release it to the media?

Frankly, and without any prejudice towards those who will make up the panel, this review should be conducted by somebody other than the HSE. Daniel's family are entitled to expect that much at least.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) is the most obvious candidate. It is independent and it is widely respected.

This doesn't mean an inquiry will change the HSE into an effective child protection body.

I have called many times for this function to be taken from the HSE and given to a separate agency.

To ask the HSE to run the health services and the child protection system at the same time is ridiculous. An inquiry will not bring Daniel back. But if it moved closer the day when child protection will be given to a dedicated agency, it will have achieved something.

And the momentum for such a move may be building.

The Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, recently suggested that the option of having child protection services run by some organisation other than the HSE should be looked at.



PEACE

But whatever is done, poor Daniel will still be dead, stabbed to death while still officially a child.

His awful tragedy will stay with his family for life. An inquiry may bring the truth but it will not bring peace.

Whatever led to his death, he is another of the lost children. We have rightly been spending a lot of time on the failings of the past in relation to children.

But it's too easy to criticise the past while turning a blind eye to what's being done to children in the present.

To reverse that, we need to find out what happened to Daniel McAnaspie and for that we need an independent investigation.

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