September 17, 2009

'No change' to lack of social work services


Wednesday September 16 2009

THE FATHER of a Wexford woman who drowned herself and her two daughters more than four years ago has warned that 'nothing has changed' with regard to the lack of round-theclock social work services.

Eddie Reddy (pictured) spoke out last week as a social work service available for emergencies on a 24-hour, seven-day a week basis was called for in a new report commissioned by the Mental Health Commission and An Garda Síochána.

Gardaí, as the only agency immediately available at any hour of the day or night, are ' often unfairly and inappropriately' left to deal with mental illness and social crisis with limited support, according to the study from the working group on police and mental health services.

Both Gardaí and the Mental Health Commission collaborated with the group, which issued seven key recommendations, including the need for an out-ofhours social work service, which was also highlighted as essential by the report commissioned following the deaths of the Dunne family, in Monageer.

The key recommendations in the report is the 're-organisation of statutory social work services to allow for 24-hour, seven-day emergency response availability'.

A report released in May into the deaths of the Dunne family in Monageer also called for the provision of a national out-of-hours social work service to ensure an appropriate response to serious child protection and welfare concerns.

The HSE had put forward a proposal to set up a system for 24hour social work cover, though it said that funding was not available for the service, which had an estimated €15 million.

Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy said he was fully committed to ensuring that the recommendations relating to An Garda Síochána would be fully implemented.

Mental Health Commission chairman Dr Edmond O'Dea said the recommendations would not involve significant financial outlay 'but rather the will to address the issues raised, and the commission will closely monitor the progress being made'.

'There's no change,' Eddie Reddy told the Irish Independent. 'The same thing could happen again anytime, this weekend or another weekend.'

In April 2005, his daughter Sharon Grace (28) had called to Ely Hospital on a Saturday seeking a social worker and was told someone would be available the following Monday.

She then asked for an emergency number and the receptionist offered to ring Wexford General Hospital. Ms Grace declined the offer and left.

The following morning her body and those of her daughters Mikahla (4) and Abby (3) were found close to shore on nearby Kaats Strand.

– Conor CULLEN