Thursday 18 January 2018

Five children involved in Midlands social services died in space of just two years - damning report

Five children involved in Midlands social services died in space of just two years - damning report
Five children involved in Midlands social services died in space of just two years - damning report

Eilish O’Regan

Five children who were involved with social services in the Midlands died in the space of just two years, a damning report revealed today.

The children would have been known to the service due to a range of concerns including neglect and welfare risks.

The children had varying levels of involvement with social services overseen by Tusla either currently or in the past,  inspectors from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) warned.

The cause of death is not revealed but ten serious incidents were reported.

The Midlands Area comprises the counties of Laois, Offaly, Westmeath and Longford. The area is predominantly rural in nature and has five main urban areas, Portlaoise, Tullamore, Athlone, Mullingar and Longford.

Recommendations and actions arising from reviews which had followed into the cases of specific children and national review panel reports were not effectively implemented.

Inspectors, who visited the service in January and returned in March, found that some staff were unaware of child deaths or their review.

The quality of the three local and internal review reports varied.

Two made general recommendations in regard to service delivery but did not comment on the quality of decision making or oversight, while the third review was comprehensive.

The area manager told inspectors that she planned to collate the recommendations from all review reports and track their implementation.

“However, opportunities for learnings both to emphasise good practice and areas for improvements had been missed as no system was in place to review, manage and implement the findings,” the report said.

Inspectors said that during 2015 a backlog of cases, dating back a number of years, was brought to the attention of Tusla’s national office in relation to children. The staff team had worked through the majority of the children's cases and a small number of cases remained.

However, there had been significant delays in assessing and managing these cases.

During the initial inspection, 12 out of 53 cases that were sampled by inspectors in one of the duty intake offices were escalated due to concerns in regard to their prioritisation level, and timely and or appropriate intervention.

One duty team that was predominantly resourced with agency staff with under two years experience, who had no direct line manager and with a principal social worker who was due to leave on the day after the initial fieldwork.

The watchdog outlined an action plan for the services to address the issues.

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