The Western Trust has confirmed that children as young as nine with complex and mental health needs have had to be relocated outside of Northern Ireland because there is no facility here to treat them.
In some cases local children have spent around 900 days (around two and half years) in placements in England or the south of Ireland.
The ‘Journal’ has obtained information under the Freedom of Information Act which shows that over the past decade, 13 children from the Western Health & Social Care Trust area have had to be sent beyond Northern Ireland for treatment.
The youngest children affected were aged nine, 10 and 11, while the others are all aged between 14 and 17.
The most recent placement was made in August 2014 and there are four children currently still being treated in England or in the south of Ireland.
The figures were obtained after concerns had been raised earlier this year over the lack of facilities to deal with children with complex needs.
Explaining the reasons for the children placed in care, a Western Trust spokesperson said: “On all occasions children are placed outside Northern Ireland for services which are not available in N. Ireland.
“On each occasion this is in agreement with the child’s/ young person’s family and extensive discussion has taken place with the service user as appropriate, prior to any move taking place.
“The 13 children were placed in either England or the Republic of Ireland.”
The Trust confirmed that they facilitated contact between the children and their families.
When asked about the nature of the children’s needs, the Trust responded: “The needs of the children/young people placed outside N. Ireland are particularly of a complex and/or mental health nature.
“N. Ireland does not have any secure mental health facilities available for children.
“The Trust would also advise that within healthcare all transfers of children outside Northern Ireland are a result of a Consultant to Consultant Extra Contractural Referral which are approved by the Health and Social Care Board,” the spokesperson added.
Earlier this year a woman contacted the ‘Journal’ to raise concerns that children could not be treated in their own area and referred to the issue as “a shame.”
The woman said claimed it made no sense that health authorities were paying for relatives of children to travel and stay in England so they could see them on a regular basis, yet could not fund a facility to treat those same children here.