Children’s services publication statement 28 March 2024

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 Midwest service area. The inspection focused on the implementation of Tusla’s Child Abuse Substantiation Procedure (CASP), which came into operation in June 2022. 

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 the Child and Family Agency (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.

In order to meet its statutory obligations, Tusla must carry out an assessment of allegations of child abuse in line with fair procedures. This substantiation assessment examines evidence and decides if an allegation is founded or unfounded on the balance of probabilities. If the allegation is founded, a determination is made that the person who is the subject of the abuse allegations poses a potential risk to a child or children. Tusla calls its national standardised process the ‘Child Abuse Substantiation Procedure’ (CASP). 

HIQA conducted a focused inspection of Tusla’s CASP in the Midwest service area between 5 and 7 December 2023. Of the five standards assessed, the service was found to be compliant with one standard, substantially compliant with three standards, and one standard was not compliant.

Overall, the service area had clearly defined governance and management systems in place, with clear lines of authority and accountability to protect and safeguard children through the process. The team was managed by an experienced principal social worker. However, at the time of inspection, staffing on the team was challenged, as the team was operating at approximately 33% of their staffing capacity. 

Up until June 2023, there had been no unallocated cases in the area; however, by November 2023 there were 98 cases awaiting allocation, with the majority of them waiting for a preliminary enquiry. The area had identified this risk and management was actively trying to address it. 

The protracted timelines set out in the CASP were not consistently met, and there were significant delays in cases progressing through this procedure. This impacted on Tusla’s ability to act in a timely way when it came to progressing safeguarding actions for children who may have been at risk. 

CASP staff clearly recognised their responsibility to safeguard children and were child centred and trauma informed in their approach to communication. However, the procedure was not child centred, as in some cases, communication was delayed and the timelines set out in the CASP were long. In addition, leaflets to explain the CASP process were not child friendly or easy to understand. There was no CASP leaflet for parents and the leaflets were not available in languages other than English on the Tusla website. The team was aware of this and took steps to address it through phone calls with families. 

Clear child protection procedures and systems were in place which ensured that all child protection concerns were assessed in line with Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children (2017). There was good communication and integration between the CASP team and other social work teams, which resulted in strong oversight and accountability.  

There were delays in the submission of notifications to the National Vetting Bureau. As such, Tusla was not meeting its obligations as a scheduled organisation under the National Vetting Bureau Act (2012). However, in the specific examples reviewed by inspectors, the risk to children or vulnerable people was low.

The needs of especially vulnerable children and those subjected to organisational and or institutional abuse were identified and responded to on an individual level. However, due to staffing capacity challenges, the service was not in a position to respond promptly to all cases that involved especially vulnerable children or those subjected to organisational abuse. There was close liaison between CASP staff and An Garda Síochána. 

The inspection report and compliance plan can be found at