Children’s services publication statement 07 July 2020
The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has published an inspection report on the foster care service operated by the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) in the Waterford Wexford service area.
HIQA is authorised by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs 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, to report on its findings to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs 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.
As part of its 2019 and 2020 monitoring programme, HIQA is conducting inspections across all 17 Tusla service areas, focusing on six standards: the child and family social worker, assessment of children and young people, care planning and review, matching carers with children and young people, safeguarding and child protection and preparation for leaving care and adult life.
HIQA conducted an inspection of the Waterford Wexford service area, located in Tusla’s South region, from 03 to 06 February 2020. Of the six standards assessed, one standard was compliant, two standards were substantially compliant and three standards were found to be non-compliant, all of which were identified as moderate non-compliances.
The majority of children who met or spoke with inspectors felt safe and were happy and well cared for in their placements. Children spoke warmly about their foster carers, and children who had an allocated social worker spoke positively about them.
The majority (375 of 401) of children in care in this service area had an allocated social worker and received a good service. Social work vacancies impacted on children not having a social worker and local measures had been taken in an attempt to address this.
Children were not visited by their social workers as often as they should be in line with statutory regulations. Visits were of mixed quality and the recording of them was poor. Assessments of need were carried out on all children placed in foster care and were of good quality.
Child-in-care reviews were of mixed quality and different systems for reviews were in place across the area. The number of children attending reviews was low; however, the majority of children’s views were obtained prior to the child-in-care reviews. Care plans were of good quality but not all were up to date and reviewed as required. When care plans were completed, there was good consideration of children’s care needs. Children who had complex needs and or a disability received specialist supports as required. There was good quality care planning, co-ordination of services and review of these children’s needs.
The majority of voluntary consent forms reviewed by inspectors were incomplete, out of date and not routinely reviewed. The area had not completed a review of all voluntary consent for children in care, as directed by Tusla’s national office in September 2019. The significant issues with voluntary consent agreements were escalated to the area manager following the inspection, which led to the area carrying out an audit and updating the required documents.
The recording and occurrence of staff supervision required improvement. Case management records were not always placed on the child’s record. There were significant gaps in supervision and the recording on the child’s file was not timely.
Placement plans were not completed as required. They contained limited information and were not fully completed.
Social workers put safeguarding measures in place for some children. However some children who required safety plans, did not have safety plans that included essential elements such as an assessment of the risks, and regular monitoring and reviews.
Children’s records were missing key pieces of significant information and records were not kept up to date in line with national standards. The quality of records was judged to be in need of improvement in 42 (58%) records reviewed. There were long gaps in records, not all case notes had been uploaded in most cases and it was difficult to locate some records on the electronic system.
The majority of complaints and serious concerns were managed appropriately. However, the correct process for reporting child protection concerns and allegations and processes for the investigation of concerns were not followed or were not timely in all cases. While no children were found to be at ongoing risk at the time of the inspection, this departure from agreed processes was escalated to the area manager following the inspection.
The aftercare service provided a good quality service to children preparing to leave care. All children aged between 16 and 18 years old had been referred to the service. There were delays in allocating an aftercare worker, which in turn led to delays in assessments and aftercare plans being put in place. Assessments and aftercare plans were of good quality and focused on the child’s needs. There was very good practice noted in many cases.
Issues outlined above and other issues identified during the inspection are contained in the compliance plan, which can be found at www.hiqa.ie. The compliance plan will continue to be monitored as part of HIQA’s ongoing regulatory activity.