Children’s services publication statement 26 November 2019

Date of publication:

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 Dublin North City 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 Dublin North City service, located in Tusla’s Dublin North East region, from 12 to 15 August 2019. Of the six standards assessed, one standard was compliant, three standards were substantially compliant, and two standards were found to be non-compliant, both of which were identified as moderate non-compliances. 


Children who met or spoke with inspectors said they liked living in their foster placements and felt they were well cared for. The majority of children who responded to questionnaires were positive about their relationship with their social worker and felt listened to. There was an emphasis placed on maintaining good links with families, and children reported that they see their family and friends regularly. 


The young adults who were in aftercare spoke positively about the support they had received from the aftercare service in order to prepare them for adult life. The majority of assessments of needs completed for children leaving care were of good quality. There were good systems in place to ensure oversight of assessments, and aftercare plans were timely. Some children were referred to external providers to receive an aftercare service; however, there was no oversight mechanism in place to ensure that these children received a good quality service that was in line with legislation. Some improvements were required in the area in order to ensure that all children were referred to the aftercare services at an early stage, particularly for children with complex needs.


Assessments of children’s needs when they were placed in care were completed by social workers and were good quality, comprehensive and included multidisciplinary consultation when required.


The majority of children in care were allocated a social worker. A duty system was in place in order to ensure children were receiving safeguarding visits. However, monitoring systems in place to ensure children were visited by a social worker were not always effective as there were a number of children who had not been visited in line with the regulations. The quality of record keeping in the area was mixed, and some records were not available on children’s files.


Care planning and child in care reviews were generally of good quality when undertaken and were written in a child friendly manner. There was evidence of social workers involving children, their parents and foster carers in the process and of care plans being implemented. However, a significant number of children did not have an up-to-date care plan and child in care reviews did not take place within statutory timeframes for 41 children. 


Voluntary consent provided at the time of the child’s admission to care had been reviewed in order to assess the continued appropriateness of the child’s on-going placement. A recent audit had been completed to ensure parents’ voluntary consent had been reviewed appropriately, and this was now being monitored through the child in care register.


Concerns and allegations were assessed in a timely manner, children were met with and appropriate safety measures were implemented. However, not all allegations and serious concerns were categorised correctly and, as a result, were not always assessed in line with Children First (2017) or the interim protocol for managing concerns and allegations of abuse or neglect against foster carers. While there were good governance mechanisms in place to oversee concerns and allegations made against foster carers, the same governance mechanisms were not in place for allegations and child protection concerns reported by children in care which did not pertain to foster carers. Safety plans were implemented and monitored when required, and the majority of safety plans were of good quality.


There was a process in place in order to match children with foster carers. However, formal records of comprehensive matching were not always available. While the social work team sought to match children with foster carers, this was impacted by the limited number of foster carers available in this service area. A large number of children were placed outside this service area. The service area had started to complete long-term matches for children who were longer that six months in their placements; however, approval of long-term placements was not always completed in the required timeframes and there remained a backlog of children who were awaiting a long-term match.


The service area has provided an action plan response to address the non-compliances identified on inspection. The report and action plan can be found at www.hiqa.ie.