Children’s services publication statement 9 February 2024

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published three inspection reports on children’s residential centres operated by the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) in the South West, the South East and the Dublin North East regions.

HIQA is authorised by the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth under Section 69 of the Child Care Act 1991 as amended by Section 26 of the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2011, to inspect children’s residential care services provided by Tusla. HIQA monitors Tusla’s performance against the National Standards for Children’s Residential Centres and advises the Minister and Tusla. HIQA conducted three of these unannounced inspections in October 2023.

The unannounced inspections primarily focused on the leadership and management of the centres and how effective they were in ensuring that a good quality and safe service was being provided to children. Additionally, the inspections focused on the care and support children received and how children’s rights were promoted and realised.

In a centre in the South East, inspectors assessed eight of the national standards and found that five were compliant, one was substantially compliant and two were not compliant.

Staff had good knowledge of young people’s rights which were promoted. Good practice was identified in the management of children missing from care. 

The service had experienced staffing challenges since the last inspection and was not operating with a full staff team. There was a lack of clear leadership and direction from managers at all levels and this left staff filling gaps in the service and without the necessary resources to ensure a safe delivery of service. The design of the premises continued to be an area of concern that restricted staff ability to manage incidents and risks presented by challenging behaviour. Additionally, improvements were required in management’s knowledge and oversight of the use of restrictive practices.

A compliance plan was submitted by the provider to address the two standards deemed not compliant and the one standard deemed substantially compliant. 

Of the nine standards assessed in a centre in the South West, eight were not compliant with a substantial compliance in the other area. These inspection findings marked a substantial deterioration in the performance of the service since the last inspection. Management arrangements did not provide the levels of oversight and support that were required to meet the specific needs of the children within the service.

Following the inspection, and in light of the serious nature of the concerns that inspectors found in the service’s risk management and child protection arrangements, HIQA issued an urgent compliance plan and held a cautionary meeting seeking further assurances from the provider. 

The provider submitted an improvement plan to assist the service to come into compliance in all areas.

In a centre in the Dublin North East region, of the eight standards assessed, five were found to be compliant and three were substantially compliant. 

Staff in this service area actively promoted children’s rights, including their right to dignity and privacy. The service also had effective systems in place to safeguard young people.

The service had undergone significant changes to the management structure in the months prior to this inspection and was experiencing significant staffing challenges. As a result, there were gaps in the oversight capacity of the management team. While there was a positive approach taken to behaviours that challenge, the use of restrictive practices required improvement. No review regarding the temporary use of security personnel in the service had been carried out, which meant that no learning from this practice was available for management and the staff team. 

The provider submitted a compliance plan to address the three standards deemed to be substantially compliant. 

The inspection reports and compliance plans can be found at the link below.