Children’s services publication statement 10 October 2018
The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published three inspection reports on children’s residential centres.
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 children’s residential care services provided by the Child and Family Agency (Tusla). HIQA monitors Tusla’s performance against the National Standards for Children’s Residential Centres and reports on its findings to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.
In an unannounced inspection of a centre in the Dublin Mid-Leinster service area, on 3 and 4 July 2018, inspectors found that children were well cared for and respected by the staff team. Children said that they felt safe in the centre and that they liked and trusted the staff, but they were uncertain about aspects of their future as their aftercare plans were not fully developed.
The ability of the centre to meet the needs of all children placed there was a concern for the acting centre manager, and inspectors found that a lack of alternative placements was a contributing factor to children being inappropriately placed. This matter was being addressed with the placing social work department.
Although the staff team encouraged and supported children in their education, efforts to address non-attendance at school were not always successful. While the centre was proactive in managing a range of behaviours that challenged, there was a pattern of children being absent from the centre which required collaboration with the relevant social work department to ensure risk to children was well managed when they were in the community.
Not all children in the centre were consistently allocated a named social worker, but despite this each child had been visited by social workers more frequently than required by the Child Care (Placement of Children in Residential Care) Regulations 1995. However, up-to-date care and placement plans were not in place for all children and this was not in line with regulations or best practice.
This service had re-located to temporary premises while construction and maintenance works were being carried out and inspectors found that this interim arrangement was well managed and appropriate.
The management systems in place required further development to ensure the service was being delivered in a safe and effective way. Although the acting centre manager and the staff team were experienced, interim managerial posts impacted on the long-term stability of the centre. There were no formal managerial on-call arrangements for the centre and training for staff in core areas was required.
An unannounced inspection of a centre in the Tusla South region, on 9 and 10 July 2018, found that although children were well cared for and they contributed to decisions about their care, some children were not engaged in formal education and were not adequately supported to learn how to manage their behaviour in an appropriate way.
Each child in the centre had an up-to-date care plan which was reviewed regularly. However, children were not always visited by their allocated social worker at the frequency required and some children were not consistently allocated to a named social worker. This was not in accordance with the Child Care (Placement of Children in Residential Care) Regulations 1995.
Inspectors found that the centre’s transition from a service that provided high support to a mainstream residential care service had not happened effectively over a seven year period. This resulted in inconsistent and institutional care practices which needed to change. Some of these practices, such as locking internal doors in the centre, were not risk assessed and there was no rationale for their implementation. These were not rights-based decisions and impacted on the children’s movement about the centre.
At the time of the inspection, the centre’s premises were found to be unsuitable for the provision of residential care to children. The premises were unkempt in places and in urgent need of refurbishment.
These concerns were escalated to the Director of Tusla’s children’s services and HIQA was assured that the necessary works would be completed as a matter of priority.
Management systems in the centre did not provide assurances that the centre was operating within its capacity to meet the needs of all of the children placed there, or that risks such as the disrepair of the premises were being reported and managed. The systems in place were underdeveloped and inspectors found that they required considerable improvement, particularly in relation to quality assurance and monitoring of the service, to ensure it was operating safely and effectively. In addition, there were improvements needed in the provision of supervision and training to the staff team.
In an unannounced inspection of a centre in the South region, on 19 and 20 July 2018, inspectors found a well-managed centre where children were kept safe and active. Children spoke positively about the centre and said that they had good relationships with the staff team and felt listened to and valued. They told inspectors that they were involved in planning their care and in the decisions that were made about their lives.
Safeguarding practices in the centre were good. Child protection concerns were reported appropriately and in line with Children First 2017, but there were delays in the receipt of acknowledgements of these concerns by Tusla social work departments.
This centre provided respite care and while all children had social work involvement, not all children were allocated to a named social worker. Although an up-to-date care plan was in place for all children, a copy of this plan was not always available in the centre. As this was a respite service, social workers visited children in their substantive placements but also came to the centre for planning meetings related to the children.
This centre was not part of the Tusla national children’s residential service and it had a different line management structure as a result. Centre managers reported directly to the service manager who then reported to the area manager for the South region. Although the centre was managed by a qualified, experienced and stable management team, the centre manager was employed on a short-term contract and this was found to have created some uncertainty about the leadership of the centre in the medium to short-term.