Thursday 23 November 2017

Tusla 'did not get resources to do its job properly', says Ombudsman

Ombudsman Peter Tyndall. Photo: Mark Condren
Ombudsman Peter Tyndall. Photo: Mark Condren

Anne-Marie Walsh and Eilish O'Regan

The Ombudsman has claimed that child protection agency Tusla did not get the authority or resources it needed to do its job properly when it was set up.

Peter Tyndall also revealed, ahead of the launch of an investigation into how it handles complaints, that his office has evidence that some sections of the service were not following central office guidelines.

He said the probe, that may be published later this month, was not sparked by the recent whistleblower controversy, but evidence of "inconsistent" practices. This was despite the fact the agency previously gave the office assurances it had a national policy in place to protect children and proper training was being provided.

A report by the Government's Special Rapporteur on Child Protection published this week has also criticised Tusla and gardaí for shortcomings in safeguarding vulnerable children.

"If I'm to be honest, Tusla was set up to separate child protection separately in the health service and it needed to be in this State, particularly given our history," he said.

"It was the right thing to do to set it up, but when it was set up I'm not persuaded it was set up with the authority and with the resources it needed to do its job properly."

He said it was given the same resources and complaints system it had as part of the HSE.

The Ombudsman began an investigation into the way complaints were handled by the child and family agency in June last year. His office is examining whether appropriate policies and procedures are in place and includes a review of key cases that have already been examined by the office.

In his annual report for last year, launched yesterday, the Ombudsman said he examined a random sample of files to assess how well local complaints were being handled.

The report also revealed that a man was incorrectly identified as a threat to staff at Mayo University Hospital on its computer system. He complained to the Ombudsman after a security guard was called to accompany him when he visited the emergency department.

Apology

This was because he was identified as a threat on the hospital's electronic patient information system. But the hospital could not explain why the information was there or who put it there, leading to an apology.

The Ombudsman is also investigating the administration of the Magdalene laundry redress scheme and the HSE's administration of a Treatment Abroad scheme.

Meanwhile, the annual report of the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) revealed it received 44 reports of deaths and serious incidents in the child welfare and protection service last year from Tusla. It is obliged to make the reports.

Hiqa also received 83 pieces of unsolicited information from children, staff and the public about child protection and welfare services.

Irish Independent

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