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Action taken on Mayo foster service over safety concerns

The HIQA report found that an immediate action plan had to be put in place – an “exceptional regulatory activity”.

Image: Children playing via Shutterstock

IMMEDIATE ACTION HAD to be taken after the Health Information Quality Authority undertook an inspection of Mayo’s HSE foster care service.

The local health area (LHA) service met just five out of 25 standards in full.

There was evidence that the LHA did not have effective systems in place to ensure that all children were safe and that day-to-day practice promoted the safety and wellbeing of children.

The inspection found that “not all children were safeguarded and protected from potential harm”.

This was the first inspection of service and HIQA said that overall, there was evidence that the LHA provided a foster care service “which improved outcomes for many children and young people”.

Although in the main, children and parents were happy, there were a number of concerns. HIQA found that “children’s rights were not always respected” and children’s complaints “were not addressed in a childcentred manner”.

Safety

Due to safety concerns, the Authority issued an immediate action plan to the LHA to undertake a review of a number of children’s cases to ensure they were safeguarded and not at risk of ongoing harm.

This immediate action plan is described as “an exceptional regulatory activity” used “when inspection findings indicate that there is an immediate risk to the welfare of children and young people”.

HIQA noted:

The principal social worker acknowledged that the foster care service had not been meeting all its statutory responsibilities in the recent past and managers were taking steps to address this.

The majority of children were living with foster carers who valued, accepted and supported them. However, this was not the experience of all children. The needs of children with a disability were not always met.

The majority of children were safe and protected from abuse, though there were deficiencies in some safeguarding and child protection practices which posed a risk to a small number of children.

Some, but not all children were in stable placements.

Complaints

They found a number of social workers were unaware of how to make a protected disclosure, which allows for ‘whistle blowing’ and provides staff with limited protection.

Foster carers told of instances where they were unsure if the information provided to them by the children in their care was a child protection concern. They also did not know about the reporting requirements to be undertaken by them under Children First (2011) or what this process involved.

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Foster carers did not receive appropriate guidance and training on child protection or safe care. Four out of 107 foster carers received child protection training in 2012.

Inspectors were not satisfied that all reports of child protection and welfare concerns were appropriately addressed in accordance with Children First. There were 16 concerns about the welfare and protection of children, which related to eight foster care families, in the previous 12 months.

For a small number of children, there was a delay in responding to early warning signs of possible abuse and some protective measures taken were inadequate. This meant that some children experienced unsafe placements “for a significant period of time”.

Inspectors also found that at times there were poor and or strained relationships between some foster carers and children and the social work department. This meant “a number of children were not monitored sufficiently and social workers could not be assured that they were safe”.

Training

The majority of foster carers did not receive training and there were no regular reviews of foster carers.

Information indicated that 19 out of 81 general foster carers and none of the 26 relative foster carers had attended training in the past 12 months.

Inspectors were told that foster carers were not obligated to attend training, contrary to HSE policy  and best practice guidelines. In addition, there was poor provision of information to foster carers about HSE processes and systems.

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