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Saturday 24 August 2019

Children placed in 27 foster families who were not garda vetted - report

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Eilish O’Regan

Children were placed in 27 foster families who were not vetted by gardai, a new inspection report has revealed.

The inspection of the foster care service in Cork found these were relatives of the children.

In another 82 families there was no up to date vetting of the foster carers, the report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) revealed.

The inspection carried out in August followed a previously highly critical report which arose out of major failings during a February inspection.

HIQA said the February inspection identified a number of serious risks and of the eight standards inspected against, there were five major non-compliances.

On the return inspection in August actions which were to be immediately implemented in order to reduce the risks had not been implemented in a timely manner.

Inspectors escalated 13 cases to the child care manager on this inspection to address the safeguarding risks and concerns arising from them.

There remained significant delays in starting and completing the vetting of relatives who were fostering children.

“While 33 relative carers had now been assigned a link social worker, there remained 42 relative carers without an allocated link social worker, despite assurances provided in February 2017 that this action would be taken as a matter of priority.”

Following the inspection, HIQA wrote to the Chief Operating Officer of Tusla regarding the risks which had been identified on the previous inspection that remained a risk on this inspection.

In response Tusla the Child and Family Agency said it acknowledged the HIQA report and and that it highlights areas for improvement.

Tusla is actively working to implement these as a priority. A comprehensive action plan was submitted to HIQA following the initial inspection in February 2017.

Dermot Halpin, Tusla’s Service Director in the South  said: “The follow-up report shows that incremental progress is being made in a number of key areas, including the assessment of relative foster carers and Garda vetting.

“This work takes time and we are committed to implementing the required actions as promptly as possible to improve the service for children, families and our foster carer community.”

Additional staff have been recruited to address priority actions identified, in particular: undertaking assessments of relative foster carers; carrying out safeguarding checks; securing Garda vetting; and providing link social work support to foster carers. An Area Governance Group has been established to focus on service review and improvement.

Other works includes a new tracking system which is being developed to ensure that foster carers maintain up-to-date Garda vetting.

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