Children’s services publication statement 13 January 2020
The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published two 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.
An unannounced inspection of a centre located in the West region took place on 30 and 31 October 2019. The inspection found that children living there were provided with child-centred care and were involved in decisions about all aspects of the care and welfare. Children spoke positively about the centre and the support they received there. Complaints were well managed by the centre.
Child in care reviews took place in line with regulations, and care plans available at the time of inspection were found to be comprehensive with clear actions that were being implemented by staff. Communication between centre staff and key people involved in the children’s lives was good, and parents told inspectors they felt included in decisions about their children.
The safety of children was prioritised by the centre and considered on an ongoing basis as part of their treatment programme and key working sessions. Child protection and welfare concerns were appropriately reported to the relevant social work department.
The premises were clean, warm and homely. Each child had their own bedroom and there were sufficient indoor and outdoor recreational facilities in place. While generally well maintained and maintenance issues were reported promptly, there was undue delay in resolving some maintenance issues.
There was a sufficient number of staff on duty to meet the needs of children placed. Supervision of staff took place in line with timeframes set out by the supervision policy and records were of good quality. Risks were well managed within the centre; however, centre practices in general were not supported by national policies and procedures which reflected recent significant changes in legislation, guidelines and the introduction of the new national standards. Tusla’s suite of policies and procedures for children’s residential centres had not been updated since 2010.
An unannounced inspection of a centre in the South region took place on 25 and 26 September 2019. The inspection found that the young people had formed positive and confident relationships with staff. The young people spoke positively about staff and had choices in relation to day-to-day decisions; however they had mixed views about living in the centre. While the level of support provided to young people was appropriate, the best interests of young people were not always fully promoted, as demonstrated in a number of significant safeguarding incidents that occurred in the centre in the previous 12 months that were not well managed.
Each young person had an allocated social worker and care and placement planning were in place. Young people participated in their care plan review meetings and understood their placement plans. There was appropriate and effective communication between the staff and the young people’s social workers. Young people were supported to develop independent living skills; however, appropriate aftercare options in line with the leaving care assessment of need for one young person were not available. Access for young people with their families was strongly supported and facilitated by the staff team. Although school placements were available, two young people refused to attend despite other alternatives to mainstream school being explored. Furthermore, there was a lack of routine for these young people while out of school.
Staff worked effectively with social workers, young people and their families to promote the safety and wellbeing of young people. Complaints, concerns and incidents were appropriately recorded, reported and responded to; however, records were not consistently signed off by staff or managers
There were governance and management arrangements in place, but these were not effective. Over the previous 12 months there had been significant operational issues that remained unresolved at the time of inspection. These included low staffing levels, poor management of staffing resources, inadequate and ineffective communication systems and staff dissatisfaction with a national child-centred approach to the staff rota.
The centre manager was appropriately qualified and experienced but did not demonstrate the level of leadership needed. Roles and responsibilities across the management team were not clearly defined, there was a lack of accountability for the implementation of existing systems and policies and procedures, and poor systems of communication across the staff team. The systems in place to manage risk were ineffective, and risk management was not clearly understood by all staff.
The supervision of staff was poor and not taking placed as required. This had been a regular finding in previous inspections of the centre. The non-adherence to the supervision policy meant that there was no accountability or effective link between supervision and practice.
The centre had undergone refurbishment in 2018 and improvements were made in the overall décor and furnishings. A submission had been made to extend the building so as to increase the living space and improve facilities as part of a regional accommodation strategy within the South region. During the inspection, the kitchen and dining areas were inaccessible following an incident three days prior to the inspection. This posed potential health and safety risks in the centre and impacted on access to cooking facilities, fresh water and structured mealtimes. Actions to address this incident were not considered timely, and an immediate action plan was requested by inspectors and provided by the centre manager.