THE HSE are merely “treading water” in their care of a 17-year-old male and are holding out for the youth to reach 18 so they can wash their hands off him.
That was the damning assessment by Judge William Early at last week’s District Court in Portlaoise, in the case of a 17-year-old who has amassed 31 criminal convictions.
A care worker with the HSE, a Ms McDermot took the stand to inform the court that the youth has never really attended with any of the Youthreach or Fresh Start initiatives that have been put in place for him over the years. She told Judge Early that the male has good abilities and has shown an interest in carpentry.
“What efforts have the HSE made to encourage his interest in carpentry?” asked Judge Early. “He’s been with the HSE since 2006 and he obviously has exceptional needs. Does the HSE not understand how to put in place a coherent plan to deal with children? There doesn’t seem to be any sense of that in these reports.”
Ms McDermot said that the authority had offered the youth every opportunity they could, but his level of cooperation was low.
“The HSE are treading water until he reaches 18, then they’ll wash their hands off him,” said the judge.
“I disagree,” replied Ms McDermot.
“There’s no evidence of a coherent plan for children’s needs,” Judge Early continued. “Until the HSE gets its act together there’s a likelihood you’ll see a lot more children go homeless in the criminal justice system.”
Solicitor, Mr Philip Meagher informed the judge that a local businessman has offered to take responsibility for the youth and provide him with employment. Taking the stand, the businessman told the court that the youth had lived with him before, but following an incident in the family home they lost contact.
“He’s a good lad if he’s not with the people he was with,” said the businessman. “Prison would be no good to him.”
He said that as he owns a number of businesses in town he would be able to offer the youth some part-time work.
The youth himself told the judge that he has been trying his best, but he keeps getting so far only to “get down after for months”.
Informing him that he was “within a hair’s breadth” of being remanded in detention at St Patrick’s Institute, Judge Early put the matter back to July 27 for a probation report and urine analysis.