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Allocation of social workers to children in foster care 'chaotic', inspection finds

At the time of the inspection, 22% of children did not have an allocated social worker.

File image: Children told inspectors they were
File image: Children told inspectors they were "tired of sharing my story over and over".
Image: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

A REVIEW OF the foster care services, operated by the Child and Family Agency (Tusla), found the Carlow/Kilkenny/South Tipperary area has experienced a significant challenge in retaining social workers. 

An inspection report found the allocation of social workers to children in care was “chaotic and was not child-centred”.

The Hiqa report found that of the seven national standards assessed, one standard was substantially compliant and six were non-compliant.

Inspectors found the system for care planning and reviews were poorly managed and resulted in children’s needs not being met.

Some children in the service area experienced frequent changes to their allocated social workers and long periods without an allocated one. 

The report found that some children were visited by multiple different Tusla professionals. Many times, significant events were not always responded to, actions agreed at care planning reviews were not followed up on and, as a result, support services were not always provided.

Some children’s placements ended in an “unplanned manner” due to failure by the area to provide appropriate services efficiently. 

The data provided to inspectors at the time of inspection indicated that 72 out of 312 children (22%) did not have an allocated social worker. 

‘Tired of sharing my story over and over’

The report notes that a review of files showed that, following an increase in staffing, some children were only allocated a social worker in the weeks prior to the inspection. 

Inspectors found that children without an allocated social worker or who experienced multiple changes in social workers clearly highlighted their poor experience as a result.

Children told inspectors they were “tired of sharing my story over and over”; “there are so many social workers coming to me and then going”; and “I was without a social worker for over 2 years, and one was appointed three weeks before I was due to turn 18″.

Those who were allocated a social worker spoke positively about them, and children also spoke positively about their foster carers.

Hiqa conducted this inspection of the Carlow/Kilkenny/South Tipperary foster care service, located in Tusla’s South region, from 21 to 24 May 2019.

During that time it found that aftercare services in the area were also significantly under-resourced and not well established.

“Where social workers completed assessments of need and aftercare plans, they were good quality; however, there was insufficient capacity within the aftercare service and a significant number of eligible children had not been referred to the aftercare service,” the report states. 

The service area has provided an action plan response to address the non-compliances identified in the inspection.

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Adam Daly

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