Children's services publication statement 26 January 2023

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 Dublin North 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 Dublin North in October 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 inspection programme is the third and final phase of a three-phased schedule of inspection programmes monitoring foster care services. Of the eight standards assessed, one was compliant, six were substantially compliant and one was non-compliant.

Overall, the leadership and governance of foster care services in this service area was well structured and provided ongoing monitoring and review of the quality and effectiveness of its services. Partnership working was strong and supported good joint working between front-line teams, managers and partner agencies. Senior managers were open to and encouraged new and creative ways of building service capacity and were responsive to feedback from children and foster carers. However, there was still work to do to ensure all children in foster care had a social worker allocated to work with them and that there was a sufficient number of local foster carers with relevant expertise to meet current levels of need.

This inspection found the Dublin North service area overall had made steady, and in some cases, good progress against most areas for improvement identified in previous HIQA inspections. However, the number of unallocated children in foster care had increased, and gaps in local provision meant that children continued to be placed in foster care placements outside the service area. At the time of this inspection, there were 66 children on a waiting list for a social worker whose care was overseen by social care workers and team leaders. This included a small number of children in non-statutory (private) foster care.

Senior managers recognised and were responsive to the organisational risks and pressures faced by front-line teams. Senior managers were visible and accessible to front-line teams and were kept well informed about risks to children or foster carer capacity. There were arrangements in place for responding to complaints that were timely and effective. Areas for improvement included; the quality of some supervision records, and further work was required to address ongoing gaps in access to specialist assessments or the availability of therapeutic support. Increased use of case audits would also provide further management assurance of the quality of work with children, including the maintenance of their case records.

The inspection report can be found at the link below.