Tusla - Ireland's Child & Family Agency

Tusla statement on ‘Taking Stock - an investigation by the Ombudsman into complaint handling ......

External oversight and assessments such as the Ombudsman’s investigation into complaint handling ‘Taking Stock’, coupled with the experiences of those that use or services provide us with valuable feedback and assists us to continuously develop and enhance our services.

Tusla has been actively working to improve this area of work for the past 12 – 18 months. In addition, we have actively worked with the Ombudsman over the past year, during this investigation to progress the implementation of the valuable recommendations. Tusla has been working to continuously improve the complaints function within the agency, and set up its own complaints function independent of the HSE in 2016 called ‘Tell Us’.  The recommendations in ‘Taking Stock’ and resulting actions will build on the improvements already completed or underway to further enhance the complaints function within the Agency.

Speaking about the launch of ‘Taking Stock’, Brian Lee, Director of Quality Assurance, Tusla said: “I welcome the acknowledgement by the Ombudsman of the difficult environment in which social workers work, and of the difficultly in dealing with disclosures of retrospective abuse. ‘Taking Stock’, which was based on a small sample of individual complaints, provides valuable learnings for us and we are working proactively with the Ombudsman in relation to implementing the recommendations in the report. Many of these have already progressed significantly.

In 2016, the Agency launched its own complaints and feedback policy and procedure, Tell Us, and overarching policy and procedure which is supported by a number of guidance documents, including guidance documents for both adults, and children and young people. Listening to the perspectives of people who experience Tusla services is not discretionary, it is essential. This makes Tusla services more people-centred, responsive and effective.”

Tusla undertook the following activities to enhance the complaints function in 2016:

  • Guidance for members of the public and staff and a complaints leaflet for young people were developed and published on the Tusla website.
  • Briefing sessions on Tell Us for Tusla staff commenced.
  • Quarterly service experience reports produced to support learning and development of practice improvements.
  • The development of the National Children’s Charter advanced.

We are currently developing a detailed action plan which will set out short and long term targets. This will be closely linked to the transformation programme which will enhance many aspects of the Agency, including organisational culture, HR strategy, governance systems, and further corporate functions.

We engage with difficult situations and in the vast majority of those cases we do so appropriately. Only 9 complaints that went on to the Ombudsman were upheld.

Tusla received over 47,000 referrals to its Child Protection and Welfare Service in 2016. Some 20,127 (43%) of those referrals required an initial assessment. In addition, Tusla regulates Early Years services across the country (2,008 inspections in 2016), provides adoption services (911 new applications to trace birth relatives in 2016), educational welfare services (educational welfare services worked with 3,751 new children in 2016) and 108 communities are supported through the Child and Family Agency's Family and Community Services Resource Centre Programme.

Tusla is aware of difficulties in responding to complaints in a timely way and this is due, in part to resource issues. New structures and systems are being set up to enhance the complaints and feedback function across the country. 

Once we receive a complaint, we will respond to it promptly and, wherever possible, will endeavour to resolve the complaint locally and quickly. An immediate response to all complaints may not be possible, as some will require formal and careful consideration

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