Children’s services publication statement 28 May 2019
The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published an inspection report on the foster care service operated by the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) in the Sligo/Leitrim/West Cavan 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 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. These focused inspections are announced and cover six standards.
HIQA conducted an inspection of the Sligo/Leitrim/West Cavan foster care service, located in Tusla’s West region, from 28 to 31 of January 2019. Of the six standards assessed one standard was compliant, two standards were substantially compliant, and three standards were found to be non-compliant, of which one was identified as major non-compliant and two as moderate non-compliances.
At the time of the inspection there were 103 children in foster care in the Sligo/Leitrim/West Cavan area. Of these, 26 children were placed with relatives and the remaining 77 children were placed with general foster carers, one of whom was placed with foster carers from a private provider.
Children who met with or spoke to inspectors felt safe and were happy and well cared for in their placements. They also felt happy about their contact with family members. Children described good relationships with their social workers and foster carers. Young adults spoke positively about the aftercare service and felt that they were receiving sufficient support to prepare them for adult life.
Social workers coordinated the care of children, ensured that care plans were implemented, and visited the children in their homes. However, inspectors found that, during the two years prior to this inspection, seven children were not visited within the timeframes set out in the regulations. Social workers were responsible for maintaining records of the service provided to children, but inspectors found that some case notes and records of home visits had not been completed. The electronic system used to manage children’s records was lacking in functionality and social workers found it complex to navigate.
There was a good system in place to manage child in care reviews. Children, their parents, foster carers and others involved in their care were invited to attend and the views of children were sought and listened to, albeit the locations of reviews were not child-friendly. Voluntary consent provided by parents at the time of children’s admission to care was not subject to review at child in care reviews in regard to the continued appropriateness of the child’s ongoing placement in care.
Children had good-quality care plans but not all care plans were completed in a timely manner. The quality of case management records of social workers was not always adequate. Placement plans were not completed in the area.
The area tried to ensure that children were matched with foster carers who had the capacity to meet their needs, but there was a delay in the long-term approval of placements planned for a duration of six months or more.
There were practices in place to ensure that children were protected from abuse and social workers were committed to safeguarding and protecting children in care. There was good practice in regard to the categorisation, management and oversight of complaints, concerns and allegations against foster carers but not all allegations made by children were assessed and investigated in line with Children First: National Guidance on the Protection and Welfare of Children (Children First) (2017). When specific measures were taken to ensure children’s safety, these measures were not always formalised in formal, written safety plans. Given the difficulties in accessing records, such as case notes, on the electronic system, and the absence of chronologies of key events, it is critical that safety plans are clearly accessible on all files of children where risks have been identified.
There was good practice in the area of leaving care and aftercare. Children and young people were well supported in their transition from care to adult life. The aftercare team was well resourced and they implemented the national policy on aftercare in full.
The Sligo/Leitrim/West Cavan service area has provided an action plan response to address the non-compliances identified on inspection. The inspection report and action plan can be found on www.hiqa.ie.