HIQA in­spec­tion finds ‘se­ri­ous fail­ures’ in lo­cal Tusla ser­vice

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - By EIMEAR DODD

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.

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