Thursday 22 August 2019

Health watchdog criticises Tusla for not routinely reporting of alleged neglect and abuse

Robin Schiller

Robin Schiller

THE Health watchdog has criticised Tusla for not routinely notifying Gardaí of alleged sexual or physical abuse and neglect in a timely manner.

The critical report of services in the Dublin South West, Kildare and West Wicklow found that major non-compliance was found in all four standards assessed.

A report by HIQA found two significant areas of risk and put a three month crisis management plan in place to address them.

These significant risks included the backlog in processing and uploading new referrals onto NCCIS (National Childcare Information System), as well as the operation of waitlists at the preliminary enquiry stage.

Inspectors also noted that child protection and welfare referrals were not being managed in line with Tusla standard business processes.

A review of cases showed that there was good co-working with the Garda, but that the service area was not routinely notifying Gardaí of “suspected crimes of wilful neglect or physical or sexual abuse against children in a timely manner.”

The themed inspection, which was carried out over three days in April, assessed their compliance with national standards relating to managing referrals.

Responding to the report, the Child and Family Agency said it accepted the findings of the report.

However Jim Gibson, Chief Operations Officer with Tusla, added that it was important to state that they have made “important headway in implementing a range of measures to reform children protection and welfare services”.

“Tusla has been very clear in highlighting the current challenges around recruitment, with a shortage of social workers nationally,” he said.

“On this front Tusla has taken a number of positive measures including holding our first ever national recruitment open day in June and on-going liaison with third level institutions.

“This report also highlighted staffing deficits, with 26 vacancies at the time of inspection. However, it also acknowledged that this area had developed innovative and effective measures in place to divert families to external agencies where a welfare response was more appropriate,” Mr Gibson added.

Patricia Finlay, Service Director with Tusla, said the Child and Family Agency had advised HIQA of a number of ongoing issues, with issues noted in the report previously identified by management and staff in the area.

Ms Finlay said that the issues around Garda notifications “have been corrected, with all notifications now made at the point of intake”.

Other issues including backlogs and priority levels systems have also been addressed according to Tusla.

“While we acknowledge that there were shortcomings in systems and administrative practices which have largely been rectified, we are satisfied that the child protection practice provides safe and effective care for children,” Ms Finlay said.

“Tusla remains committed to improving the care and safeguarding of children in Dublin South West/Kildare/West Wicklow and all other children in our care."

The area of Dublin South West Kildare and West Wicklow has a total population of more than 400,000 and includes around 108,000 children.

It encompasses areas including Naas, Newbridge, Tallaght and Crumlin, and is the third highest level of deprivation among the 17 Tusla areas.

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