Mayo senator speaks out following shock revelations by RTÉ Investigates unit

A Mayo Oireachtas member has admitted she is still trying to come to terms with the fact the Department of Health was secretly using information from private consultations to build and maintain dossiers on children with autism to aid it in legal actions that were taken against the State.

Reacting to the RTÉ Investigates programme on the matter, Senator Lisa Chambers said: "The work was done in co-operation with the HSE and the Department of Education.

"It involved detailed information sourced directly from confidential consultations between children and their families and doctors and professionals.

"These dossiers include sensitive medical and educational information on the children involved.

"They were built and maintained over a number of years by the department without the consent or knowledge of parents.

"The reports include details of specialist service provision and document the well-being and mindset of parents as they cope with the needs of their child.

"Families were completely unaware that their disclosures to medical staff were passed on to the department.

"Nobody knew about this. The information was then shared to aid the department in putting together its legal strategy and help it determine when might be the best or most opportune time to settle cases out of court.

"It all came down to money rather than the well-being of the children.

"The practice only came to light because a brave individual made a protected disclosure.

"An employee of the Department of Health gave information that files were being kept on children that were detailed, extensive and involved material sourced directly from consultations with psychiatrists and other medical professionals.

"I commend the individual on being brave enough to step out when others felt they could not do so.

"It is welcome that the Taoiseach has asked the Minister for Health to review the matter but that is just the beginning of the process.

"The fundamental role of the State is to advocate for the child and ensure that every child reaches his or her full development and potential.

"Above all, the State must protect the rights of the child. That did not happen in this case."

"I acknowledge all of the employees who may have been aware of this issue over the years.

"We must be careful to acknowledge the difference between somebody who had the power to make a decision and those who were powerless to do anything about it.

"I say that because many people will feel an element of guilt for being complicit to a certain extent but many of those who were in that position may have felt they did not have the ability or space to come forward in a safe way.

"I emphasise that we are looking at the top level of management here over a number of years.

"This is a nasty legacy issue, one of many that the State is grappling with and one of many where children have been failed by the State.

"It is important, first and foremost, that we provide every person who is following what came out of the "RTÉ Investigates" programme with reassurance about their information, privacy and confidentiality.

"We must then examine, assess and provide the full facts of what happened. There must be consequences," she added.