Tusla - Ireland's Child & Family Agency

Tusla statement on HIQA inspection of Cork foster care services

Tusla – Child and Family Agency responds to today’s HIQA inspection report on foster care services in Cork.

The focus of this inspection was children who were in foster care and the governance arrangements in place to ensure safe and effective care. While the inspection report highlighted many positive examples of good practice and also evidence of on-going service improvements, it also highlighted areas where further improvement was needed.

Commenting on the report, Kate Duggan, National Director of Services and Integration, Tusla said:

“This inspection highlighted areas of very positive practice, and it also identified areas which fall well below the standards we expect and appropriate actions are underway to rectify shortfalls.

We would like to reassure the public that where a child is at immediate risk, they receive an immediate protective response which was reflected throughout the report.

Further, in Cork every single child (100%) in foster care had an allocated social worker at the time of inspection. Social Workers actively support children in their placements, facilitating family access visits and where necessary advocating for additional support services.

While our main priority was providing appropriate support to these children and prioritising child-centered practice, there was a backlog of reviews. We have made progress in this regard and will continue to address this. A delay with a review does not indicate a lack of social work response.

The report highlighted concerns about the number of foster care placements available. Foster care recruitment continues to be a challenge for Tusla nationally, and we recently rolled out our second national public awareness and recruitment campaign to encourage people to consider fostering a child. Anyone who is interested in opening their home to a child, particularly those in Cork and other large urban areas, can get in touch with Tusla by calling 1800 226 771 or visiting fostering.ie to find out more.

Overall we are continuing to build on much of the good work in our services in Cork.

We remain committed to continuously improving our services to ensure child protection practice across all areas is safe and effective.”

Of six standards assessed, one was compliant, two were substantially compliant, and the remaining three were non-compliant (major).

The report found that:

  • All 715 children in care in the Cork service area had an allocated social worker
  • The vast majority of children in foster care (97%) were placed within the Cork service area
  • Feedback from children and young people indicated that many were happy and thriving in their foster care placement and had a strong attachment to and sense of identity with their foster carers
  • Social workers and their managers ensured children’s contact with their family and friends was safe and appropriately managed in line with public health advice, during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Young people leaving care reported very positively about the help received and availability of their aftercare workers and the Aftercare national policy was implemented in full in the area

However, the report also highlighted deficits in statutory visits as required by the regulations, a significant backlog in child in care reviews, variable quality of recording of management oversight and supervision, and a deficit in foster care placements.

In order to address these deficits, some of the main actions being taken by Tusla include:

  • The development of an independent Child in Care review team which will ensure consistency in the planning and delivery of child in care reviews and ultimately in the delivery of timely and comprehensive care plans.
  • The recruitment of four new posts and the reassignment of two other social work roles for this team.
  • A new IT update to automatically flag cases that are on the system for a particular period of time, or where follow up is required.
  • The implementation of a new statutory visiting guidance policy which has improved the oversight and governance of reviews being undertaken.
  • Planned targeted recruitment campaigns for foster carers from minority communities/cultures. 
  • Training in cultural diversity and placement matching in 2021 to enhance social workers knowledge in the area. 

Tusla receives consistent and high quality regulation and oversight, by various internal and external bodies including HIQA. This oversight assists us in ensuring that our practices deliver good quality, timely and appropriate interventions and services for children, and spans a number of Tusla services including alternative care and child protection and welfare services. Continuing to improve the quality of that care set against high standards and regulation is an ongoing process. 

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