Tusla - Ireland's Child & Family Agency

Tusla response to HIQA foster care service inspection report for Carlow/Kilkenny/South Tipperary

The HIQA inspection report published today regarding Carlow/ Kilkenny/South Tipperary fostering services relates to an inspection carried out in May 2019.

Commenting on the report’s release, Dermot Halpin, Service Director for Tusla South, said: “Key areas requiring improvements were identified in this inspection report and key improvement measures have been taken since the inspection took place to remedy the issues identified. These improvements are being carried out on an ongoing basis. Further progress will be made in the months ahead, and timeframes to achieve this will be monitored rigorously. Our very detailed and robust action plan has been accepted by HIQA, and we are working proactively towards reaching all of our targets in this regard.

HIQA has confirmed positive aspects of the services we provide in the area, including the following:

  • Children and young people spoke very positively about their foster carers, and children and young people who had an allocated social worker saw them regularly and felt they were listened to.
  • There has been a significant improvement in how concerns and allegations against foster carers and other allegations made by children in care were correctly categorised, reported, assessed and investigated in a timely manner.
  • Good progress has been made in reducing the backlog of foster care reviews.
  • Safety plans that were required following reports of serious concerns and allegations were of good quality.
  • There were no foster care households where the number of children exceeded the standards.
  • Assessments of need were comprehensive.
  • The area tried to ensure that children maintained their contacts with their local community when they were admitted to foster care.
  • There were structures in place to facilitate planning for children-in-care who had complex needs or disabilities that required a multidisciplinary response.
  • The Tusla local area had employed a consumer affairs officer since January 2019 to provide oversight and monitor the progress of complaints.”

Also commenting on the report Marie Kennedy, Tusla Area Manager for Carlow/Kilkenny/South Tipperary, said: “We are wholly committed to builder a stronger fostering service. There are areas that we must improve on in Carlow, Kilkenny and South Tipperary. To this end, we have commenced the implementation of all the actions outlined in this report, and will continue to deliver these over the next 12 months.

“Improvements in staffing levels have been achieved since the inspection, leading to increased allocation of social workers to children in care. Social work staffing levels have been very challenging in the Carlow, Kilkenny, and South Tipperary area in the past year. Any risks associated with this issue are being monitored continuously. Vacancies are being filled from local and national Tusla panels. Tusla recently held its first ever national open day at its head office to recruit social workers.  This event was very successful, and similar initiatives will be planned in the local area.

Ms Kennedy added:

  • There have been internal social work management changes to further support staff working in children-in-care services in the area, to enhance the overall service, and retain staff.
  • A priority will be placed by Principal Social Workers and social work team leaders to make sure that all children are visited in line with the regulations.
  • Focus groups with children-in-care in the area have begun, to find out more about their experiences and how Tusla can improve social work visits. The findings will be a key pillar in Tusla’s service delivery going forward.
  • Enhanced guidance, training and support for staff on protected disclosures is being developed. National Tusla policy and procedures on protected disclosures are firmly established.
  • A detailed schedule is in place to address and prioritise the backlog of reviews.
  • A dedicated Aftercare Manager’s post is currently in the recruitment process.
  • Training workshops will be provided to staff undertaking direct work with children which will have a focus on difficulties that children-in-care may have in disclosing potential abuse.”

Foster care is a central element of Tusla’s child protection system. Tusla is making every effort to enhance our foster care system across the three counties to provide positive and safe environments for children and young people who can’t live at home, and to support families in the area who open their homes to vulnerable children. Tusla is subject to consistent oversight, and this supports us to ensure that our services provide good quality, timely and appropriate interventions for children and their families.

Separately, Tusla aims to increase the number of foster carers available in the three counties. We will commence a recruitment drive for additional foster carers in the coming weeks. Currently, across Ireland some 4,254 people open their homes and lives to approximately 5,511 foster children.                                                  

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