Munster rape trial: Social worker had concerns over intellectual capacity of parents

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Munster Rape Trial: Social Worker Had Concerns Over Intellectual Capacity Of Parents
She agreed that she made contact with the couple’s GP, who had a similar concern and mentioned that he believed the children’s mother had an undiagnosed learning disability.
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Sonya McLean

A social worker said she had concerns about the intellectual capacity of the parents of the children in an alleged abuse case and put additional supports in place to assist them.

The social worker, who was assigned to the family in 2014, agreed with Mark Nicholas SC, defending the child’s father, that she had “an inkling, a concern” that the parents had a learning disability following a number of meetings with them.

She agreed that she made contact with the couple’s GP, who had a similar concern and mentioned that he believed the children’s mother had an undiagnosed learning disability.

“We did send them on for assessment and put in extra support. The level of support for them was tremendous because we wanted them to be able to parent on their own,” the woman said.

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She added that there are many parents who have disabilities, including learning disabilities, whom are still able to parent their child to an acceptable standard.

The woman agreed with a suggestion from counsel that conditions were poor in the household, but there was “affection there”.

“Yes, they were a family,” she replied.

Regression in care

She agreed that case conferences followed her initial meetings as she still had concerns about the parents’ capacity to care for their children.

She agreed that there were points when she noted improvements when the family had good support, but there would be regressions again in the care for the children as supports were withdrawn.

The woman agreed that the children were taken into care by the State following a District Court hearing in April 2016, a hearing which she gave evidence at along with other professionals.

She accepted that at that hearing she informed the court that she felt that she had “exhausted every opportunity” to try and look at other ways for the couple to be parents to the children, but she felt “we are now at a crossroads, and we have no other option”.

Level of assistance

Six family members, who can't be named for legal reasons, are accused of abusing three children between 2014 and 2016. The accused are the parents, aunts and uncles of the children.  They range in ages from 27 to 56 and live in various locations in Munster.

The parents are also accused of neglecting five of their children. All the accused have denied the charges against them.

The social worker agreed with Dean Kelly SC, defending the children’s mother, that the family had been given “a monumental level of support” but didn’t accept that the case was “out on its own” saying that many families would have a similar level of assistance.

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She said that as the social worker she was the key worker in the case, and she worked to get them as much support as possible to allow them to parent alone.

“You gather the troops and put them in place for the family, but it is up to the family to engage,” the witness said before she added that after some time with the family “there was no discernible change” in the children’s lives that could be sustained until they were 18 years old.

She accepted that it was with “a clear professional eye but with a heavy heart” that she recommended to the District Court at the hearing in 2016 that the children be taken into care.

The trial continues on Thursday, June 24th.

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