Children’s services publication statement 21 August 2019

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published an inspection report on the fostering and child protection and welfare services operated by the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) in the Dublin South Central 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, and under Section 8(1)(c) of the Health Act 2007, to monitor the quality of services provided by Tusla to protect children and promote their welfare. HIQA monitors against the National Standards for Foster Care and Child Protection services and the National Standards for the Protection and Welfare of Children, and advises the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and Tusla. 

The purpose of this inspection was to examine the progress in implementing action plans submitted by the service area to HIQA in 2018 to address risks to children in both child protection and welfare and foster care services. 

Since 2018, additional resources had been made available within the services in Dublin South Central and there had been a restructuring of both the foster care and child protection and welfare teams. 

Foster care
Since the last foster care inspection, an additional fostering team had been set up. However, despite the improved capacity of the service since the last inspection, significant risks remained due to poor governance and management within the fostering service. Progress in relation to relative assessments and placements of children with relatives in an emergency was still inadequate. The process to ensure the completion of checks in relation to placements with relatives in an emergency had not been progressed. The continued lack of progress in this area of risk was unacceptable.

While some progress was noted in the oversight and governance of the management of allegations and serious concerns against foster carers, improvements were still required in relation to the appropriate categorisation of allegations and serious concerns, the timely completion of assessments, and the notification of allegations and concerns to both the monitoring office and the foster care committee. 

Improvements were found in some areas during this inspection, in particular, all foster carers with children placed were now allocated a link social worker and significant progress had been made in clearing the backlog of foster carer reviews. 

Child protection and welfare
This inspection found similar risks as the September 2018 inspection, and there continued to be a risk of harm to children from on-going delays in receiving services due the back log of referrals requiring preliminary enquiries and initial assessments. 

The area had undergone a period of change, and improvements were evident within the governance and management of the child protection and welfare service. Progress had been made in the management of waiting lists, and there was an increased confidence within the area that all child protection and welfare referrals were being monitored. Data provided by the area indicated 1,001 referrals on a waiting list for a child protection and welfare service, 714 awaiting preliminary enquiries, 269 awaiting initial assessment and 18 awaiting further assessment. The areas management team, while aware of the risks associated with large waiting lists for services, were confident in their oversight and management of waiting lists and felt assured that no child or children at immediate risk was waiting for a service.

There were also improvements noted in the quality of interventions provided to children who had an allocated social worker, and the quality of initial assessments had improved. Social work staff were more confident in the lines of accountability and responsibility within the child protection service. 

While screening and preliminary enquiries were not being completed in line with Tusla’s Standard Business Processes, analysis of potential risks through screening of referral information had improved since October 2018. This was evident through improved application of risk ratings, prioritization of cases and identification of tasks to be completed. However, screening was not adequate in all cases and services were not effectively delivered within safe time frames, resulting in delays and inadequate responses to some children at risk. 

The previous inspection of the service area found that all suspected incidents of abuse were not notified to An Garda Síochána. While there was evidence that some actions to address this had been taken, progress was not sufficient. 

Safety planning remained a significant risk across both the foster care and child protection and welfare services. Significant improvements in the timely implementation of safety plans as well as the quality of safety plans were required, particularly when such safety measures are the only mechanisms available to direct the safety of children while they are awaiting delayed social work interventions.