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Jack’s Case: One Year On, child with disability is thriving but supports still not in place for all children

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office has today published Jack’s Case: One Year On, an update on our investigation into the care of a young boy with profound disabilities who suffered brain damage and significant life-changing injuries in a car accident as a small boy. An investigation by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) in 2020 found significant failings in the handling of Jack’s care by both the HSE and Tusla, which saw the little boy spend, unnecessarily, over two years in hospital when he should have been at home. Recommendations made by the OCO regarding Jack’s care, and the system as a whole, were fully accepted by both State agencies at the time. A year on, Jack, who is now nine years old, is thriving living with his host family and is going to school. He is getting respite and can also communicate much better, in what represents a substantial improvement in Jack’s quality of life and standard of care.

However the OCO remains concerned that there are still significant gaps at policy, funding and operational level to support the rights of children with disabilities to grow up at home with their families. This includes a failure to regulate Home Sharing, as well as a lack of data and insight into the needs of children with disabilities in Ireland.

Commenting on the report, the OCO’s Director of Investigations, Nuala Ward said:

“Jack’s case is a real-life example of what can be achieved when a child with a disability is placed in the right environment with the right supports and care, and when State agencies coordinate and work together properly. Our team has visited Jack and we are delighted by how well he is doing since we first met him in 2019. Jack is clearly thriving with his host family where he is receiving consistent, high-quality care that fully meets his needs, as is his right. He goes to school five days a week and has class-mates, recently making his First Holy Communion with his friends. Jack’s doctors have also noted a significant improvement in his health over the past 18 months and we warmly welcome the efforts made by everyone involved in Jack’s care.

“However we believe that, like Jack, every child with a disability should be given the right supports and care to reach their potential so that no child is left languishing in a hospital when they don’t need to be there. While we welcome improvements that have been made since our investigation on Jack’s care was first published, we are still concerned that significant gaps remain at national level. There is a large cohort of children with disabilities still in need of services, while a small number of children also remain in hospital beyond medical need for an unacceptable length of time.

“We continue to be concerned that Home Sharing remains unregulated, thus leaving children and host families without the same support and protection afforded in a Foster Care arrangement. It is our view that every child should have the right to grow up with their families or in a home setting, which shouldn’t be impeded by a lack of resources and/or proper co-ordination by State services. We believe that ring-fenced funding is therefore needed to support this right, and would like to see multi-annual budgets put in place for children’s disability services to properly plan for anticipated and predictable needs throughout the year.

“The transformation in Jack’s case clearly demonstrates how effective the State’s child disability services can be when the proper systems are in place. However we are extremely concerned that a national review on the need for alternative care for children with disabilities has still not been finalised by the HSE and Tusla, and that there is a significant delay in the implementation of a framework for holistic assessment of a child and family’s circumstances. We hope all the remaining concerns outlined in this report will be shown the urgency needed to address the gaps that remain, so every child with a disability can reach their potential like Jack.



Aoife Carragher, OCO Head of Communications
087 1484173