HIQA publishes overview of its inspection of Tusla’s foster care services during 2019 and 2020

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has published an overview report of the inspection of the Child and Family Agency’s (Tusla’s) foster care services in 2019 and 2020.

The report focuses on compliance with six national standards and summarises the overall findings from inspections of all 17 service areas conducted in 2019 and 2020. HIQA found that while there were noticeable improvements since the previous inspections in 2018 and 2019, there were areas of non-compliance that require ongoing monitoring and improvement. 

HIQA’s Head of Children’s Services, Eva Boyle, said: “Our programme of inspection indicated that many service areas made progress in achieving compliance with the standards and improving the service provided to children in care. Well-governed and well-managed services learned from previous inspections to improve their services. This is a significant step in ensuring that the services provided by Tusla to children in care are consistent and equitable. Notwithstanding these improvements, further improvements are required across a number of services areas.”

Listening to children’s voices during inspections is crucial in how HIQA determines service performance. The significant message received from children in care was that when they had a long-term and consistent social worker, they received a good service. The majority of children spoke highly of their social worker. However, not all children in care had an allocated social worker. Some children had experienced several changes in social workers, some had not yet met their social worker, and it had been some time since others had seen their social worker. 

Areas of non-compliance that required improvement included statutory visits to children in care and their oversight, adequate numbers and suitability of foster care placements, and safety planning for children who required a safety plan.

Although some service areas reported that all children in care had been visited by a social worker in line with regulations, this was found not to be the case in any of the service areas during the two-years prior to their inspection, but this had improved by the time of their inspection. The oversight of these statutory visits was also inadequate in many service areas.

A number of service areas struggled to ensure that there were adequate numbers of suitable foster care placements for children in their area, highlighting the national shortage of foster carers within the Tusla system, despite significant and ongoing recruitment initiatives. 

The weakest area of practice reviewed in this inspection programme was that of care planning and reviews. Given that individual care planning and review arrangements are fundamental to promoting good outcomes for children in care and for supporting their safety, wellbeing, development and identity, the inspection findings indicate the need for Tusla to ensure local arrangements deliver a consistently high standard of social work practice in this area.

Ms Boyle concluded: “The overarching high level of compliance found across 13 of the service areas in relation to preparation for leaving care is a significant and welcome improvement, as this is critical for vulnerable children. Further work is required by Tusla to continue to improve compliance with the national standards across and within the service areas to ensure all children in foster care have access to a safe, high-quality service that meets their needs.”
HIQA continues to monitor service areas where persistent non-compliances were found in 2019 and 2020, and will also continue to request and risk assess compliance plan updates, and, when necessary, carry out further risk-based inspections.
The full report and infographic is available at www.hiqa.ie. 

Ends.

Further information:
Marty Whelan, Head of Communications & Stakeholder Engagement
085 8055202, mwhelan@hiqa.ie

Notes to Editor:

  • HIQA is responsible for regulating and monitoring the quality and safety of adult and children’s health and social care services across Ireland.
  • 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 foster care services provided by the Child and Family Agency and to report on its findings to the Minister.
  • HIQA monitors foster care services against the National Standards for Foster Care, published by the Department of Health and Children in 2003.
  • Tusla is organised into four regions: the West, the South, Dublin Mid Leinster and Dublin North east. Each region is managed by a service director and is divided into several service areas that each provided a foster care service. In total, there are 17 service areas nationally.
  • During 2019 and 2020, HIQA conducted announced inspections across 17 Tusla foster care services focusing on the following standards:
    • Standard 5 – The child and family social worker
    • Standard 6 – Assessment of children and young people
    • Standard 7 – Care planning and review
    • Standard 8 – Matching carers with children and young people
    • Standard 10 – Safeguarding and child protection
    • Standard 13 – Preparation for leaving care and adult life.
  • In 2019, a total of 11 Tusla services areas were inspected and the remaining six service area inspections were completed in 2020.
  • The 2021 to 2022 inspection programme, which commenced in May 2021, will focus on assessing the efficacy of governance arrangements across these foster care services, and the impact these arrangements have for children in receipt of foster care. This programme will be the third and final phase of a three-phased schedule of inspection programmes monitoring foster care services. As this inspection programme is focusing on service quality improvement, only those service areas deemed to have previously had a high level of compliance with standards, will be included in this inspection programme. All other service areas will continue to be monitored and inspected in line with our risk-based monitoring approach.