Children’s services publication statement 26 August 2021

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published an inspection report on the child protection and welfare service operated by the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) in the Cork service area. 

HIQA is authorised by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth 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 Tusla’s performance against the National Standards for the Protection and Welfare of Children and advises the Minister and Tusla.

HIQA conducted a risk-based inspection of the child protection and welfare service in Cork over four days in April 2021. This inspection was to be undertaken as part of a thematic inspection programme; however, based on the evidence found during this inspection, it was decided to change from a thematic inspection to a risk-based inspection on the day of inspection. The inspection assessed seven of the national standards relating to management of referrals, the assessment of child protection and welfare concerns and the ongoing intervention provided to children and families. Of the seven standards assessed, two were found to be majorly non-compliant and five were moderately non-compliant. 

Overall, the inspection found that the leadership, management and governance of the duty/intake and initial assessment service lacked clear direction and, while there was evidence of service improvement, further significant improvements were required. The governance arrangements and structures were ineffective at providing assurance to the area manager and Tusla national office that the service delivered was safe, effective and timely. There was a lack of robust systems of oversight. Risk management systems did not identify all significant risks to the service, and systems in place to review the quality of the service were underdeveloped. As a result, these issues were not effectively managed and the risk associated with this became more significant.  

Inspectors found the governance and management of cases awaiting allocation was poor. In addition, preliminary enquiries took up to two years to complete in some cases. This resulted in excessive delays in decision-making on the next steps to be taken in these cases. 

Notwithstanding the risks identified, inspectors did find areas of good practice. Immediate action was taken to protect children and subsequent work by social workers with children and families had a positive outcome for the children in terms of their protection. Safety plans reviewed by inspectors were also of good quality.