Children’s services publication statement 7 March 2023

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 Louth Meath 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 follow-up risk-based inspection of the child protection and welfare service in Louth Meath over three days in November 2022. The inspection focused on the management of child protection and welfare referrals, from the point of receipt of the referral about a child, to the completion of an initial assessment and the aligned governance arrangements in place to ensure a safe, effective and timely service delivery to these children. Of the four standards assessed, all four were found to be substantially compliant. This represented significant improvement in service delivery since a previous inspection completed in April 2022. 

Parents who spoke with inspectors were positive about the service and the staff, and said their children had benefitted from being involved with child protection and welfare services. 

There were clear governance arrangements in place and service delivery had improved in a number of areas. The risk associated with the volume of referrals awaiting preliminary enquiries had been significantly decreased. There were no high priority referrals awaiting a preliminary enquiry. This meant that children where the potential for harm or with the highest needs were not waiting to receive a service to ensure their safety and that their needs were being met. New staff had been recruited, and teams were restructured, which improved the area’s capacity to respond to new referrals in a timely way. Management systems had been strengthened to improve the management and oversight of unallocated cases, and these were reducing in number. Resources were managed creatively to ensure that all resources were used to maximum effect. Some areas of practice in relation to safety planning for children had improved. Initial assessments were of good quality.

However, the area still had a number of staff vacancies waiting to be filled in order to sustain these improvements in service delivery. The area was operating outside of Tusla’s standard business process in relation to timelines for completion of preliminary enquiries and there were still waiting lists for services. There were still some delays in providing services meaning that some children were waiting to have their needs assessed. Further improvement was required in the recording of children’s’ records to ensure they were complete and up to date. Some areas of practice relating to safety planning for children required further improvement to ensure that safety planning was consistently of good quality. 

The report and compliance plan are available at the link below.