HIQA publishes overview of its monitoring and inspecting of Ireland’s children’s services during 2021

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has published an overview report of the inspection and regulation of children’s services in 2021.

HIQA conducted 56 inspections throughout the year and found that while there were improvements in compliance against national standards and regulations across children’s services, there was further room for improvement in governance and management and resourcing services. Many children also continued to experience delays in accessing the service or a care placement which was appropriate to their needs. A small number of children experienced delays coming into care due to the lack of availability of suitable placements. However, where children had an allocated social worker who met them consistently, they received a good quality service.

Eva Boyle, HIQA’s Head of Children’s Services, said: “2021 was another challenging year for children’s services due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the cyber-attack on Tusla’s information systems. Our inspections found an ongoing commitment to delivering good quality and safe services to children; however, there were inconsistencies in many services provided to children that need to be improved upon.”

“One persistent finding from our inspections was the continued challenge that Tusla experienced in adequately resourcing its services and the impact that this had on children. It is crucial that children have access to the right service for them at the right time to support their development and promote their safety and rights. We highlighted these findings to Tusla throughout the year, along with cases where there were delays in providing appropriate placements to children and Tusla have developed a residential strategy to guide their future planning and delivery of residential care.”

Many children did not have an allocated social worker or experienced multiple changes in social workers over short periods of time. While Tusla employed other professional groups and used social care staff to mitigate the risk associated with reduced staffing levels, vacancies persisted in many services. There was also a lack of suitable foster care placements for children requiring admission to care. Towards the end of 2021, the number of children who did not have an allocated social worker increased in many service areas.

Ms Boyle concluded: “HIQA is committed to the continued improvement of services available to children and their families. We listened to what children had to say about their care and used their views to assess the performance of services. The majority of children spoken with were positive about their experiences of the services they received.”

HIQA will continue to promote ongoing improvements in children’s services. The areas of leadership, governance and management of services are a focus of the current inspection programme for 2022, and HIQA will also continue to respond to risk in services when identified during inspections.
Read the full report and view the infographic at ww.hiqa.ie.

For further information please contact:
Eimear Smith, Communications Manager
085 8804362, esmith@hiqa.ie 

Notes to the editor:

  • Under the Health Act 2007 (as amended), HIQA is responsible for regulating and monitoring the safety and quality of children’s social services in Ireland to ensure they meet national standards and relevant regulations. 
  • During 2021, HIQA conducted 56 inspections of children’s services, including:
    •  26 inspections of statutory children’s residential centres
    • 12 inspections of child protection and welfare services
    • seven inspections of statutory foster care
    • five inspections of private foster care
    • three special care unit inspections
    • two service area inspections (incorporating both child protection and foster care services)
    • one inspection of Oberstown Children Detention Campus.
    • Special care units are regulated by HIQA’s Chief Inspector of Social Services. All three special care units had their registration renewed in 2021. Within each three-year registration cycle, special care units are monitored by the Chief Inspector to ensure ongoing compliance with the regulations and standards.