Saturday 20 April 2019

Tusla 'doesn't work efficiently with gardaí in abuse probes'

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone. Picture: Colin O'Riordan
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone. Picture: Colin O'Riordan

Kevin Doyle and Eilish O'Regan

A probe into Tusla's management of child abuse cases has found that the Child and Family Agency does not work efficiently with gardaí.

Weaknesses in the way child abuse cases are dealt with by the State are expected to be outlined by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) today.

The Irish Independent understands Hiqa has recommended significant changes to the way Tusla operates that will take some time to implement.

It comes on foot of an investigation that was established in March 2017 following revelations that the agency created false files alleging abuse involving Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe and his family.

The controversy came close to bringing down the Government as Children's Minister Katherine Zappone and then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny made contradicting statements about their knowledge of the incident in February 2017.

Sgt McCabe later accepted that the inclusion of a false rape allegation in the file was the result of "some form of cut-and-paste error".

However, the incident, which was also examined at the Disclosures Tribunal, led Ms Zappone to order a wider assessment of Tusla's work in this area.

The minister believed the poor handling by Tusla of information provided to it, arising from the case, indicated a possible "serious risk to the health and welfare" of children.

Almost 15 months after the review was commissioned, the minister will bring the results to Cabinet today.

Sources say it points to "established weaknesses" in how cases are handled.

It is understood to raise questions about how efficiently allegations are dealt with and the failure of Tusla and gardaí to share information adequately.

A key problem in Tusla remains a shortage of experienced social workers, which is hampering assessments.

The Hiqa report, which will be published after the Cabinet meeting, makes "national recommendations".

Sources said Tusla would welcome the overview but may need extra resources to implement all of the recommendations.

Irish Independent

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