HIQA publishes overview of its monitoring and inspecting of Ireland’s children’s services during 2019

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published an overview of its inspection and monitoring of children’s services during 2019.

HIQA found that while there were marked improvements across many children’s residential centres, the quality of key systems such as monitoring and oversight, quality assurance and risk management differed in a number of service areas and needs to improve.

HIQA’s Director of Regulation and Chief Inspector of Social Services, Mary Dunnion, said: “Good governance is intrinsically linked to good outcomes and experiences of people using services. It also means that the individuals with responsibility for managing a service are assured about its quality; that they are confident they can respond to identified risk and future challenges; and that they can consistently sustain an effective, child-centred and safe service. In a well-governed service, the provider and managers do not lose sight of the fact that they hold the primary responsibility for the quality of the service. HIQA continues to see ample evidence that good leadership, governance and management in services is essential for building and sustaining effective and resilient services.”

Children receiving centre-based care, including special care and in a detention school, described how they were supported and listened to when expressing their views and encouraged to participate in decisions about their care. They talked freely about their care placements, the people who were caring for them and the quality of care they felt they received. Some children commented on the impact of changes to their social worker, which they found unsettling. Young people described how aftercare workers supported them with independent living skills, housing, education and the significant positive impact this support had on their lives.

Risk-based inspections of child protection and welfare services found that children and their families experienced variance in the quality and timeliness of the services they received, resulting in delays in screening, preliminary enquiries and initial assessments. There are extensive demands across some service areas for children to receive initial assessments of their protection and welfare, with lengthy waiting lists in place in the areas where risk-based inspections were carried out. There was no national approach being taken by Tusla to manage waiting lists for children and families awaiting a service from Tusla.

Ms Dunnion continued: “The resulting cumulative effect of these challenges on children, their families and the children’s carers, particularly the limited staffing resources in some service areas, has led to variations in the quality and timeliness of the services that children, their families and foster carers have received. This impacted some service areas to a greater extent, including the Tusla services that are subject to risk-based inspections, which was seen in their limited capacity to meet the demands placed on them, as well as managing existing children’s cases on waiting lists”.

Foster care inspections found that when children were allocated a social worker, they received a good quality service, and children spoke very positively about their social worker. However, some areas had significantly high numbers of children in care that did not have a social worker and, as a result, these children were not receiving a good quality service. There were backlogs of child-in-care reviews and a high number of care plans that were not up to date. The quality of care plans also varied and placement plans were not routinely completed in some areas.

Ms Dunnion concluded: “Risks in some children’s services remain and, without doubt, Tusla continues to face a number of key challenges. These challenges primarily relate to the pace of implementing a workforce strategy that both involves attracting more social workers into the service and retaining current social work staff. There is limited capacity to meet the demands placed on social workers.”

Children provided inspectors with a rich picture of what was important to them and, for the most part, children experienced being cared for in a way that made them feel valued and significant to those responsible for their care and development. Children who met with inspectors said they were aware of their rights and were encouraged and supported to exercise them.


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.
  • In 2019,HIQA conducted 51 inspections children’s services including:
    • four inspections of special care units
    • 26 inspections of statutory residential services
    • 12 inspections of statutory foster care
    • one inspection of Oberstown Children Detention Campus
    • one risk-based inspection of a Tusla service area
    • 7 inspections of a child protection and welfare service.