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HIQA report finds "inconsistencies in many services" for children

Lengthy delays and a lack of resources were the main issues noted.

 The Health Information and Quality Authority building in Dublin.
The Health Information and Quality Authority building in Dublin.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

THE HEALTH INFORMATION and Quality Authority (HIQA) has published a report of 56 inspections of children’s services in 2021, which found that significant improvements should be made to the State’s children’s services.

While there were improvements in compliance against national standards and regulations, many children continued to experience delays in accessing the service or a care placement which was appropriate to their needs, the report found.

It also noted that there was further room for improvement in management and resourcing services.

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.”

HIQA reported that a small number of children experienced delays coming into care due to the lack of availability of suitable placements.

Many children did not have an allocated social worker or experienced multiple changes in social workers over short periods of time. 

However, where children had an allocated social worker who met them consistently, they “received a good quality service”.

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”.

“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,” Boyle said.

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“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.”

Towards the end of 2021, the number of children who did not have an allocated social worker increased in many service areas.

HIQA’s inspections included 26 inspections of statutory children’s residential centres, 12 inspections of child protection and welfare services, inspections of statutory and private foster care and an inspection of Oberstown Children Detention Campus.

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