A new report from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) found inconsistencies in the State’s children’s services that “need to be improved upon”.
Hiqa conducted 56 inspections throughout 2021 and found that while there were improvements in compliance against national standards and regulations across children’s services, there was further room for improvement in governance, management and resourcing services.
According to the report, many children continued to experience delays in accessing services, or a care placements which were suitable for their needs. A small number of children also experienced delays coming into care due to the lack of available suitable placements.
However, Hiqa found where children had an allocated social worker who met them consistently, they received a “good quality service”.
Hiqa’s Head of Children’s Services Eva Boyle said 2021 was "another challenging year” for children’s services due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the cyber-attack on Tusla’s information systems.
"Our inspections found an ongoing commitment to delivering good quality and safe services to children; however, there were inconsistencies in many services provided to children that need to be improved upon,” she said.
“One persistent finding from our inspections was the continued challenge that Tusla experienced in adequately resourcing its services and the impact that this had on children.
"It is crucial that children have access to the right service for them at the right time to support their development and promote their safety and rights.
"We highlighted these findings to Tusla throughout the year, along with cases where there were delays in providing appropriate placements to children and Tusla have developed a residential strategy to guide their future planning and delivery of residential care.”
According to the report, many children did not have an allocated social worker or experienced multiple changes in social workers over short periods of time.
While Tusla employed other professional groups and used social care staff to mitigate the risk associated with reduced staffing levels, "vacancies persisted in many services”.
The report said there was also a lack of suitable foster care placements for children requiring admission to care.
Meanwhile, towards the end of last year, the number of children who did not have an allocated social worker increased in many service areas.
“Hiqa is committed to the continued improvement of services available to children and their families. We listened to what children had to say about their care and used their views to assess the performance of services. The majority of children spoken with were positive about their experiences of the services they received,” Ms Boyle added.
Throughout 2021, HIAQ inspected 26 statutory children’s residential centres, 12 child protection and welfare services, statutory and private foster care services and the Oberstown Children Detention Campus.