HIQA Publishes Terms of Reference for Tusla investigation

Date of publication:

We have published Terms of Reference for the investigation into the management of allegations of child sexual abuse against adults of concern by the Child and Family Agency (Tusla).

Section 9 Health Act 2007 (the “Act”) Investigation

Investigation into the management of allegations of child sexual abuse (CSA) against adults of concern, by the Child and Family Agency “Tusla”, upon the direction of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (the “Minister”)

1. Direction of Minister to undertake a Section 9 investigation

On 02 March 2017 the Authority was directed by the Minister (pursuant to the Minister’s power to do so under Section 9(2) of the Act) to undertake an investigation (the “Investigation”) under Section 9(1) of the Act. The Minister believes that the apparent poor handling by Tusla of information provided to it, arising from the Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe case, indicates a possible “serious risk to the health and welfare” of children. The Investigation required by the Minister is to be “of Tusla’s national practices in the handling of referrals of allegations of sexual abuse which involve adults of concern”.

2. Scope of Investigation specified by the Minister

In particular the Minister directed the Authority to provide in its investigation an assessment of the handling by Tusla of such referrals, at national and area level, having regard to the following areas:

  • Current risk to children
  • Fair procedure and due process for persons against whom allegations are made
  • Bilateral engagements with An Garda Síochána, including monitoring or co-ordination of efforts
  • An assessment of the number and mix of skilled and experience staff involved and if this is sufficient for the purpose
  • Allegations being managed in a timely manner and an indication of reasons where they were not
  • Management and control of information and data, both received and generated by Tusla.

3. Exclusions from Scope of the Investigation as directed by the Minister

The Minister has specifically directed that the Authority, in its Investigation, should take all necessary steps to avoid the potential for overlap with the Tribunal of Inquiry established to inquire into certain protected disclosures, arising from the protected disclosures made by Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe (the “Tribunal”). In particular the Minister has directed that any files “relating to allegations of child abuse that come within the terms of reference of the Tribunal and, in particular, files concerning allegations of abuse of children against members of An Garda Síochána, are formally excluded from the Authority’s investigations”.

The Minister has informed the Authority that the Ombudsman is also currently considering some complaints about retrospective cases involving adults of concern and their handling by Tusla. Tusla has informed the Authority that the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner is conducting an investigation on the overall governance of data protection throughout Tusla.

Utilising the National Standards for the Protection and Welfare of Children, the investigation team will examine the effective management of information and the availability of adequate resources. However, the investigation will not include a comprehensive assessment of the number and mix of skilled and experienced staff involved nor will it include assessment of Tusla’s compliance to the Data Protection (Amendment) Act 2003.

4. Specific Terms of Reference of the Investigation

In conducting this Investigation, the Authority will investigate and assess against nationally mandated standards and evidence based practice how local, regional and national governance arrangements in Tusla, are supporting the effective management of child-sexual abuse (“CSA”) referrals involving adults of concern (including allegations of CSA made by adults in relation to when they were children). This Investigation will be further to, and take account of, the existing information available to the Authority from its existing inquiries as part of its monitoring function under Section 8(1) (c) of the Act in relation to child protection services provided by Tusla.

The Investigation will be carried out on the basis of the following Terms of Reference:

(a) To carry out an Investigation into the safety, quality and standards of the services provided by Tusla in relation to referrals of allegations of child sexual abuse with particular regard to the areas identified by the Minister (and as set out in paragraph 2 above).

(b) In particular to investigate and assess how local, regional and national corporate governance arrangements provided by Tusla are supporting the effective management of CSA referrals involving adults of concern, including allegations of retrospective CSA.

(c) In particular to investigate and assess the efficacy of bilateral interactions between Tusla, An Garda Síochána and all relevant third parties.

(d) The Investigation will specifically include an assessment of the operational arrangements, including the oversight and monitoring processes in place, to ensure the timely screening, assessment, and management of:

   A. CSA allegations involving adults of concern; and

   B. Allegations of CSA which occurred in the past made by adults in relation to when they were children.

5. Recommendations and Reporting

If, in the course of the Investigation, it becomes apparent that there are reasonable grounds to believe that there are further or other serious risks to any children or persons receiving services, the Investigation Team may recommend to the Authority and/or the Minister that these terms be extended to include further investigation or that a new investigation should be undertaken, as appropriate.

The Authority shall, prepare a report of the findings of the Investigation and make national recommendations pertaining to Tusla’s management of CSA allegations referred to it, to the extent that the Authority considers appropriate. The report will be submitted to the Board of the Authority for approval. This report will be published in order to promote safety and quality in the provision of child protection services for the benefit and welfare of the public.

6. This Investigation will be carried out in accordance with Section 9 and all other relevant provisions set out in the Act. The Investigation will be conducted by an Investigation Team appointed and authorised by the Authority in accordance with Part 9 of the Act. The Team will carry out the Investigation and may exercise all of the powers available to it or its personnel under the Act, particularly those powers set out in Part 9 of the Act, including rights of entry, its rights to inspect premises, records and/or documents and its rights to conduct interviews and rights to require explanations in relation to documents, records or other information. In addition, the Authority (with appropriate Ministerial approval and in accordance with the Act, where required) may engage advisors as it considers necessary in the undertaking of this Investigation.

These Terms of Reference were approved by the Board of the Authority on 08 March 2017.