HIQA inspects local child protection and welfare services

Tulsa welcomes greater child welfare compliance

There has been ‘significant improvement’ over a near 12-month period in how cases involving potentially vulnerable young adults and children are being processed, according to the latest report on protection and welfare services in Cavan and Monaghan.

Published by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) on Monday last, July 7, the report notes that changes still need to be made in relation to ‘significant delays’ in screening children. Appropriate vetting of staff was deemed a point of non-compliance.

The local inspection, carried out over a period of four days in November last year, involved interviews with the area manager, principal social worker and two team leaders.

HIQA inspectors also spoke with children and families and reviewed 62 children’s case files. They examined local policies and procedures, minutes of various meetings, staff files, audits and service plans.

The aim of the inspection was to assess compliance with national standards.

Cavan Monaghan is one of the 17 service areas managed by Tusla Child & Family Agency. In 2018, there were 2,038 referrals to the Cavan/ Monaghan area. Figures from January to June 2019 stood at 1,072, based on this figure it is expected that referrals will again have been in excess of 2,000 by end December 2019.

The region continues to be ranked as a deprived area relative to the national average.

‘Parents complemented the service on communication with some parents saying they “felt listened to” and they were able to contact staff when needed,’ the report read.

Prior to the inspection, a self-assessment submitted to HIQA by the service’s area management team stated there had been a “lot of change” over the preceding two years. The interim area manager had only taken up her position a week before the inspection, and there had been two other area managers in 24 months.

A new principal social worker had also been appointed in the previous 12 months.

The HIQA report notes that staff had been ‘effective’ in making significant reductions in relation to the eradication of the waiting list for initial assessments.

In January 2019, there were 121 unallocated cases, which was reduced to just five some 10 months later.

‘It was evident that the service area was making efforts to continually improve the quality of service provision,’ said the published report.

While risk management systems were in place, they were ‘not fully utilised’, noted HIQA.

Another issue noted was that training records did not reflect the level of training described by staff members, with ‘safe recruitment practices’ deemed ‘non-compliant’ by the inspectors.

‘Inspectors were particularly concerned in relation to the absence of appropriate vetting. Assurances were sought from the service director in relation to Garda vetting and/or police vetting from other jurisdictions not being in place or updated within the last five years, on four out of 10 files reviewed.’

Communication too was highlighted as a cause for concern, particularly of the outcome of initial assessment and closure of cases. This was an issue in 10 of 16 initial assessments reviewed by inspectors

While data provided by the area indicated that all referrals were screened within 24 hours, inspectors actually found that just 33 of 38 (84%) referrals were screened within 24 hours. Four of the five not screened within 24 hours were screened between two and five days after the referral was first received and another was screened one month after referral.

Inspectors furthermore reviewed 21 closed cases but found that, in 10 of those cases, parents were not informed that the case had been closed.

Tusla welcomed the mainly positive findings of the HIQA report, stating that the area had been innovative in supporting families from different backgrounds across Cavan and Monaghan.

A spokesperson for Tulsa also confirmed toThe Anglo-Celtthat, as of May 2020, the area had no waiting list for children waiting for initial assessments.

Improvements that were required in the safe recruitment practices were rectified within days of the inspection, with all files now containing the relevant documentation to confirm registration and vetting.

Commenting on the report, Lisa Anderson, area manager, Tusla Cavan/Monaghan said: “We are wholly committed to making our child protection and welfare service even stronger, and are pleased that this inspection highlighted that there was a sense that the service area is making continuous progress.”

She added: “Since inspection we have tracked all the measures identified within our service improvement plan, and will continue to make further improvements in the weeks and months ahead.”