Children’s services publication statement 15 November 2022

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published an inspection report on the Child and Family Agency (Tusla’s) foster care services in the Mid-West service area. 

HIQA is authorised by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth under Section 69 of the Child Care Act, 1991, as amended by Section 26 of the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2011, to inspect foster care services provided by Tusla and to report on its findings to the Minister, and to inspect services taking care of a child on behalf of Tusla, including non-statutory providers of foster care. HIQA monitors foster care services against the 2003 National Standards for Foster Care.

HIQA conducted a thematic inspection of the foster care service in the Mid-West service area in August 2022. These thematic inspections are primarily focused on assessing the efficacy of governance arrangements across foster care services and the impact these arrangements have for children in receipt of foster care. This thematic programme is the third and final phase of a three-phased schedule of inspection programmes monitoring foster care services.

Of the eight standards assessed, four were substantially compliant, and four were moderate non-compliant.  

The area had management and governance structures in place to oversee and deliver the foster care service. However, there were significant challenges which impacted upon the quality of the service being provided during the 12 months prior to the inspection. These challenges included high levels of unallocated cases, delays in achieving statutory work within timelines and major staffing deficits. Although the foster care service had improved governance and oversight at the time of the inspection, further improvements were required to ensure a safe and consistent service was provided to all children.

There was an effective management team in place who were driven to provide a high-quality service and who were taking action to address deficits. Communication systems were strong which supported oversight of the service. Managers worked hard to retain their staff. Staff who met inspectors described good mechanisms of support, such as informal and formal supervision, as well as planned wellbeing initiatives and opportunities for reflective practice and learning. 

Care plans for children with complex needs were child centred and of good quality. Child-in-care reviews showed participation of a range of professionals involved with children. There were good levels of information sharing to ensure accountability for practice and for monitoring the impact of interventions in addressing children’s additional needs.

The availability of foster carers to best serve children’s needs in the area required improvement. The lack of placements had the potential to expose children to placement instability, multiple placements or children being placed in residential care.

There were some delays in managing all representations and complaints, but these did not pose a risk to children’s safety. Effective oversight was in place and staff at all levels had been trained in relation to the management of complaints. The area only tracked complaints made through the Tusla national system, meant that complaints made outside of this system were not captured. Mechanisms to enable children, families and foster carers to provide feedback to the service required improvement.

During this inspection, priority action was required to mitigate one urgent non-compliance, whereby in seven foster care households both children and their foster carers had not been visited in the six months prior to the inspection. Following this inspection, the area completed a satisfactory compliance plan and submitted a provider assurance report in relation to this. The inspection also identified gaps in the management and monitoring of the foster care service relating to areas such as the quality of records.

The inspection report can be found at the link below.