Children’s services publication statement 25 October 2022

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published two inspection reports on the child protection and welfare service operated by the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) in the Donegal and Dublin South Central service areas.

HIQA is authorised by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth under Section 8(1)(c) of the Health Act 2007 to monitor the quality of services provided by Tusla to protect children and promote their welfare. HIQA monitors Tusla’s performance against the National Standards for the Protection and Welfare of Children and advises the Minister for Children and Tusla.

HIQA conducted a focused inspection of the Donegal service area over three days in June 2022 and Dublin South Central over three days in August 2022. This inspection aimed to assess compliance with the national standards relating to the management of children who are at ongoing significant risk of harm and who are placed on Tusla’s Child Protection Notification System (CPNS). Of the six standards assessed, two were judged as compliant and four were substantially compliant in Donegal and in Dublin South Central four standards were judged as compliant and two were substantially compliant. 

Both child protection and welfare services provided a good quality, safe service to children identified as being at ongoing risk of significant harm in the area. Children listed on the CPNS received a social work service which had effective leadership, governance and management arrangements in place.

Inspectors found that child protection conferences in both services were well managed and provided an open and transparent framework for discussion about risks to children, as well as required actions to ensure their safety. In Donegal, reviews took place in a timely way, but there were some inconsistencies in the frequency of safety plan reviews in Dublin South Central. Inspectors also found in Dublin South Central that the recording of home visits and management oversight of practice required improvement. 

The quality of child protection safety plans overall was good and social workers and their managers had a good understanding of current risks. However, in Donegal some safety plans required improvement. Inspectors found children’s safety was monitored but that the quality of records of visits were mixed. In Dublin South Central, managers and frontline staff effectively involved parents, safety network members and partner agencies in shared work to help keep children safe. Casework demonstrated a high standard of joint child protection practice. These arrangements ensured children and their families benefited from relevant advice and specialist support. Parents told inspectors that they valued the help they had been given. They said they saw their social worker regularly and were kept informed about everything.

Risk, at an individual or systems level, was appropriately identified and managed in both services. In Donegal, the area’s management team told inspectors that a high staff turnover had an impact on the service. In Dublin South Central, supervision of frontline practitioners required strengthening to ensure the standards set out in Tusla’s policy and guidelines for supervision and case recording were consistently met. 

Social workers and managers demonstrated their knowledge of legislation, policies and standards for the protection and welfare of children, but there was room for further improvement in both services. In Donegal, further management oversight was required to achieve consistency in adhering to policies. Social work team leaders described having high and complex caseloads that required intensive intervention. Social workers told inspectors that their capacity was overstretched due to ongoing challenges in recruiting vacant senior social work practitioner posts. In Dublin South Central, issues related to management oversight and the quality of record-keeping were linked to staffing pressures.

The inspection reports and compliance plans can be found at the link below.