Dublin South Central – Child Protection and Welfare Inspection Report 17 January 2019

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 Dublin South Central (DSC) service area.

HIQA is authorised by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs 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 the performance of Tusla against the National Standards for the Protection and Welfare of Children and advises the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and Tusla.

HIQA conducted a themed inspection of the child protection and welfare service in Dublin South Central in September 2018. This themed inspection aimed to assess compliance with the national standards relating to managing referrals to the point of completing a further assessment.

Of the six standards assessed, five were identified as major non-compliances and one standard was found to be substantially compliant.

Inspectors found that the service area was substantially compliant with standard 2.9, relating to interagency and inter-professional cooperation. There were good formal systems for liaison between the Tusla and An Garda Síochána and there were a wide range of commissioned external community resources which supported Tusla’s own prevention, partnership and family support services.

Significant failings existed at the screening and preliminary enquiry stage of the management of child protection and welfare referrals received by the service. There were delays in preliminary enquiries taking place, and 232 referrals were awaiting preliminary enquiries. Analysis of potential risks through screening of referral information was poor, and the risk ratings that were applied to the child were based on limited information, resulting in delays and inadequate responses to some children at risk.

The area operated a waiting list for children and families who had undergone the screening and preliminary enquiry process and were awaiting allocation to a social worker. At the time of inspection, there were 77 cases on a waiting list for an initial assessment and 184 cases awaiting further assessment. However, there was no formal system in place to review waiting lists and no plan to address the backlog. The ineffective management of waiting lists resulted in continued inaction and long delays in responding to concerns about children.

Children who were allocated a social worker received a varied service. Some children experienced a good quality service where their needs were adequately assessed and the necessary interventions including immediate action were completed. While, other children received a delayed service and, when their needs were assessed, the quality of initial and further assessments were poor. In addition, the process of agreeing safety plans with children’s family members was not routinely implemented in practice. Overall, the governance, monitoring and oversight of the management of child protection and welfare cases was of poor quality. Inspectors found that oversight of social work practice was poor and there was an absence of adequate governance systems to ensure the effective implementation of national policies, frameworks and templates.

The new integrated National Child Care Information System (NCCIS) was introduced in Dublin South Central in May 2018; however, it is not being effectively used. Inspectors found that there were gaps in information as staff were not routinely inputting information into the system as required.

The majority of risks identified during inspection fieldwork had been known to the area management team 12 months prior to this inspection; however, plans to improve the service had not sufficiently progressed and risks had not been escalated in the interim. Risk management processes were not fully embedded in practice, and systems designated to escalate and monitor risks were not effectively used.

Following the inspection, HIQA met with Tusla’s Chief Operations Officer and the Service Director for Dublin Mid-Leinster Region to discuss the preliminary findings from this inspection and the risks in the area’s foster care service. A requirement for a full service plan to address continued and escalating risks across Dublin South Central Service Area was notified to Tusla during this meeting.

Tusla has informed HIQA of a number of arrangements which are being established and or reviewed by Tusla to enhance its capacity and capability to deliver a safe and effective foster care and child protection service in Dublin South Central service area.

In addition, the Dublin South Central service area has provided an action plan response to address the non-compliances identified during this inspection.