Children’s services publication statement 27 February 2023

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published a report of an inspection to assess whether Child and Family Agency (Tusla) social workers in the Waterford Wexford service area were fulfilling their statutory duties of monitoring placements for children in residential care. 

HIQA conducted this announced inspection in November 2022. The inspection focused on the safety and quality of statutory social work services provided to children placed in residential care under section section 69 of the Child Care Act, 1991, as amended by Section 26 of the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2011. HIQA assessed compliance by Tusla with regulations 22 to 25 of the Child Care (Placement of Children in Residential Care) Regulations 1995, which relate to the role of the social worker for children placed in residential centres.

This inspection assessed compliance with four regulations on care records, care plan, supervision and visiting of children, and review of cases. Of the four regulations assessed, one was compliant, two were substantially compliant and one was not compliant. The inspection found that the service area was experiencing a high number of vacancies across both the child protection and welfare team and the foster care team at the time of the inspection. 

The service area had 33 children placed in residential care, and nine children did not have a social worker allocated to them. For children who were not allocated a social worker, the area had a standard operating procedure in place to ensure that all children in residential care received a level of service that ensured their safety. Following the inspection, further assurances were sought around unallocated children through a provider assurance report. The information received provided an assurance that all nine children would receive an allocated social worker by December 2022.

Care plans reviewed were child centred, of good quality and were tailored to meet the needs of the individual child. Care plans reflected the child's wishes, feelings and views and these were acted upon. There was evidence of good information sharing and collaboration between agencies. For children nearing 18 years of age, actions to be completed for leaving care were not always timely and this led to uncertainty in their lives.2
The inspection found that strategy and professionals meetings were used where placements were at risk of breakdown or there were changes in circumstances in the child's life. These meetings enhanced the quality and safety of the service provided to children. 

For the majority of children, child-in-care reviews were in line with statutory requirements. Where children choose to attend their child-in-care reviews, child-centred tools were used to capture their voice. The management and oversight of care planning and reviews for children in residential care required further improvement as there was inconsistency in the approach taken.

There was an absence of case records of statutory visits and there was inconsistency in the quality of recording statutory visits across the different teams of social workers. There was limited evidence of case audits being undertaken that focused on analysing quality.

The provider submitted a compliance plan to address the non-compliances identified by this inspection. The report and compliance plan are available at the link below.