New figures show that over the past 18 months, up to 35 young people who were known to social services in Ireland died, some while under care.

Official figures released by the Health Service Executive (HSE) show that the majority died from natural causes, followed by suicide, accidents, and drug overdoses.

Most of the children had come to the attention of child protection services or had previously had contact with them. Only a handful had been formally in the care system.

The figures were released in a series of reports compiled by the HSE’s National Review Panel for Serious Incidents which was established to investigate childcare services and deaths of children known to have come to the attention of child protection services.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Helen Buckley of Trinity College Dublin, who acts as the independent chair of the group, said the deaths of the children were not directly linked to the inaction of social services.
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However, Dr Buckley said the review discovered serious failures by health authorities regarding the implementation of their own policies in addressing both child welfare and abuse concerns.

Gaps in social services were listed as:
* The lack of a standardized method for assessing the needs of children and young people who come to the attention of social services.
* A lack of co-operation and communication between different agencies responsible for providing services to children at risk
* Pressure on front-line social work services who are unable to cope with the volume of referrals.

Paul Harrison, the HSE's national child care specialist expressed sympathy to the families who had lost children.=

He said the executive was working to introduce standardized assessments of children at risk on a national basis from next year onwards, the Irish Times reports.