Hiqa voices concerns as vulnerable children face lengthy waiting lists
Inspectors have expressed concern at variations in the safety and quality of services for vulnerable children across the country.
There were long waiting lists for initial assessments of children, referred to social services in four out of the five areas inspected last year, according to an overview by Hiqa, the safety watchdog.
But there was no waiting list in Kerry when inspected. Similar inconsistencies were found in the numbers of children waiting for allocation to a social worker.
Hiqa Director of Regulation Mary Dunnion said: "As a result of these findings through our local inspection processes, the Authority will commence a national review of governance of the Child and Family Agency in 2015." While some excellent practice was found, the watchdog said findings showed "some designated centres for children with disabilities were challenged in meeting the requirements of the regulations.
"Of the 65 inspections carried out in disability centres, escalation and enforcement issues were taken in 15 services, while eight had immediate action plans issued to them by the Authority. These related to health and safety concerns in the centres.
"There were also concerns about poor medication management, inappropriate placements of children and poor management of some centres. Two notices of proposal to cancel registration were issued due to concerns about the fitness of the provider to provide safe care to children."
The report said some children in both foster care and residential care had problems with behaviour but "services were not always able to meet their needs".
Hiqa was concerned about the restriction of some children's liberty in detention schools and the special care units.
"The Authority found that there were many positive practices but areas of concern remained."
The report noted that at the end of last year, there were 6,463 children in care in Ireland.
Of these, 325 children were in a residential placement, 6,011 were in foster care and the remainder were in other care placements.
Sixteen children were in special care placements. During the year, 40,000 children were referred to the Child and Family Agency's child protection and welfare services.