Problems with local child protection service highlighted

Tusla has responded to the issues in the report.

Issues requiring improvement have been identified within a local child protection service.

Health watchdog HIQA carried out a review of Tusla’s service in the Sligo-Leitrim-west Cavan area and said the organisation needs “to strengthen governance arrangements in order to provide a consistent safe service to all children listed on the Child Protection Notification Service (CPNS)”.

“Governance and management systems were established in the area but the effectiveness of these systems varied and improvements were required”, the report says.

A number of non-compliances with systems to review and assess the effectiveness and safety of the service were identified, including “risks” relating to seven out of the 25 children, or 28%, listed on the CPNS in the area.

“Inspectors found that while four of the seven children had been seen by a social worker during home visits, they were seen irregularly over long periods of time and social workers had not met with the children to assess their needs or obtain their views.

Three of seven children, one listed on the CPNS for six weeks and two for significantly longer, had not been seen by a social worker since they were listed.”

It was also noted that the number of children on the list in the area at the time of the inspection (March 1-3) had increased significantly when compared with the list in December 2021, an increase from nine to 25.

Children and teenagers placed on the CPNS have been “identified as being at ongoing risk of significant harm”.

“This means that children on the register are closely monitored by the social work department to ensure they are safe and interventions are provided to children and families to reduce risks to children”, HIQA says.

Inspectors also discovered “inadequate” tracking of data related to the service, particularly regarding quarterly performance data published by Tusla nationally.

“Inspectors found that the quarterly performance data published by Tusla national office in relation to the area was not accurate as it did not reflect the unallocated children relevant to the theme of this inspection in Quarter two 2021.

The area manager outlined that he received monthly data directly from the team leaders but as a result of errors on NCCIS, this data was incorrect.”

Tusla’s area manager gave assurances to HIQA that a review would be carried out to “prevent a reoccurrence of such errors”.

Responding to the inspection report, Tusla noted “improvements” are needed.

“The inspection showed that whilst children and their families reported positive experiences of the service, there are still improvements needed in the operation of this service”, it said in a statement to The Anglo-Celt.

The organisation, however, notes a number of “positive accounts” of engagement with Tusla and its social workers given to inspectors by children and their families.

It highlights accounts, including “absolutely unbelievable at her work”, “things have got better since Tusla became involved” and “the social worker put in extra time and effort”.

Speaking about the report, Liam White, Tusla Area Manager for Sligo, Leitrim and West Cavan said: “This inspection highlighted the important and essential work Tusla does with children and families however it is clear that further progress is required if we are to meet the standards we want for our service.

“We have developed a Service Improvement Plan, clearly outlining the actions for improvement, and are working hard to implement this, to enable a better experience for the children and young people in our services and the families that engage with us. The report also evidenced that where a child is at immediate risk, they receive an immediate protective response which was reflected throughout the report.”