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Senator Bacik asks for Debate on Children Missing from HSE Care

02 February 2010

Order of Business

Senator Ivana Bacik: I add my voice to those calling for a debate on the very distressing reports about the abuse of people with disabilities in residential care. I agree with speakers who pointed out the shameful neglect by the Government of people who are in such vulnerable positions, in residential care, in a situation where there are no statutory standards or inspection regimes. That is a matter which requires urgent debate.

I ask the Leader for an urgent debate on another area of shameful neglect by the State, namely, reports of the numbers of children who are missing from HSE care. These are children who came into the State as so-called unaccompanied minors, in other words, children who came to Ireland alone seeking asylum, were taken into care by the HSE, often through the out of hours service, but who then in many cases went missing very shortly afterwards and were never located again. The figures are grounds for grave concern, given that so few have been located out of more than 500 who have gone missing in the past ten years. There clearly has been a failure by the agencies involved, the HSE and the Garda in particular, to co-ordinate their services so children do not slip through the cracks.

There is also a real concern that, although the HSE says there is no evidence children have gone missing, such children are being trafficked. The Children's Rights Alliance has put forward a number of documented cases where children who went missing from HSE care were later found to have been trafficked, in some cases very sadly, for sexual exploitation. I call on the Leader to arrange an urgent debate on this to see how we can put systems in place to ensure this does not happen again.

Finally, I want to ask the Leader for clarification. I believe he indicated there would be a debate on women's participation in politics following the report of the Oireachtas justice subcommittee, to which I was rapporteur, and I am very grateful to him for that. This would be the first debate in either House on women's participation in politics in the history of the State. I am anxious that it should be held in this House before it is debated in the Dáil. I am aware the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights has also asked the Dáil for a debate. Will the Leader please confirm what date we may have the debate in the Seanad? It would be appropriate if it could be held around International Women's Day, on 8 March.