HIQA inspection finds ‘serious failures’ in local Tusla service
WE ACCEPT THE FINDINGS... HOWEVER, IT IS IMPORTANT TO STATE THAT TUSLA HAS MADE HEADWAY IN IMPLEMENTING A RANGE OF MEASURES TO REFORM CHILD PROTECTION
A HIQA inspection report has said gardaí were not notified in a ‘timely manner’ of suspected cases of neglect, physical and sexual abuse in a Tusla service area which includes west Wicklow.
The independent watchdog criticised the service area of Dublin South West/Kildare/ West Wicklow, saying there were challenges to ensure services were ‘consistently delivered.’
The Tusla service area inspected includes Blessington, Dunlavin and Baltinglass.
The report, published yesterday, noted serious failures to comply with the four standards assessed during the inspection which took place last April.
One finding noted that of the 2,116 referrals to Tusla in the previous six months, there were only 24 notifications to gardaí. Hiqa said this was a ‘very low number’ relative to the number of referrals made.
The report also raised concerns that child protection and welfare referrals were not consistently screened within 24 hours, as per Tusla’s processes. It noted that staff did not ‘routinely’ visit families, and instead often carried out initial contact over the phone, due to ‘capacity issues.’ Concerns were also raised about delays to the completion of preliminary enquiries.
The independent watchdog also found that the quality of records was ‘poor’ with information recorded inconsistently in case files. Other findings noted inconsistent oversight and risk management processes.
Hiqa also highlighted there were ‘innovative and effective measures’ in place to refer families to other agencies where appropriate.
In its response to the inspection included with the report, Tusla said it had corrected the timing issues regarding notifications to the gardaí, that the backlog has been cleared and a screening process is now in place.
In a statement to the Wicklow People, Jim Gibson, Chief Operations Officer at Tusla, said: ‘We accept the findings of this report, however, it is important to state that Tusla has made important headway in implementing a range of measures to reform child protection and welfare services within a very challenging area.
‘A number of positive key changes had been introduced in the area over the previous 12 months, including changes in senior management in the area, the adoption of a national approach to child protection and welfare, the introduction of mandatory reporting, changes to the national standard operating procedures and the roll out of the national child care information system (NCCIS). Management advised HIQA that these changes were under way and were still being embedded at the time of inspection.
‘Tusla has been very clear in highlighting the current challenges around recruitment, with a shortage of social workers nationally. On this front Tusla has taken a number of positive measures including holding our first ever national recruitment open day in June and on-going liaison with third level institutions. This report also highlighted staffing deficits, with 26 vacancies at the time of inspection. However, it also acknowledged that this area had developed innovative and effective measures in place to divert families to external agencies where a welfare response was more appropriate,’ said Mr Gibson.