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Problems identified by child protection inspectors

The Health Information and Quality Authority published its findings from the HSE Carlow/Kilkenny local health area.

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ALTHOUGH THE HSE in Carlow/Kilkenny was found to be providing services which are safe for children, there were a number of problems identified by the watchdog in a recent inspection.

HIQA published its first child protection and welfare inspection report today as part of a wider probe into HSE Children and Family Services to ensure they are compliant with national standards.

Inspectors found a “generally well-experienced and long-standing workforce” in Carlow/Kilkenny but said the systems in which it was operating were not robust.

“Some poor outcomes were identified for children,” the report stated.

Children First processes were not consistently followed, the investigation revealed. Gardaí were not always formally notified of suspected physical or sexual abuse, or wilful neglect of a child. Inspectors found evidence that in a number of instances, social workers awaited confirmation of abuse before notifying the appropriate authorities.

Leadership and governance arrangements have been described as not sufficiently robust and systems were not in place to ensure that all children received help and protection when they required it.

“Not all children and young people had been sufficiently well protected when they had needed help and support,” the report said.

Waiting lists for assessments and for cases to be allocated to social workers were not effectively managed, according to HIQA. And social workers used their individual judgement rather than official guidance when assessing risks to children.

Some waiting lists had not been accurately prioritised and there was a possibility that high priority cases might not receive the attention they required.

The Child Protection Notification System, which records all children in the area who are considered to have unresolved protection issues (including neglect), was not accurate and up to date.

Of the 27 standards examined, not one was “fully met”. Nine were “not met”, while the remaining  18 were “met in part”.

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Significant deficits were found in the vetting of members of staff, including poor records and a lack of the required checks in some cases. Inspectors found 40 per cent of staff files did not contain the requisite garda vetting, something which was described as a “significant concern and serious deficit” by the watchdog.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs said an action plan has been prepared to address the issues identified in the inspection report. It includes 57 actions and many of the recommendations have either been implemented or are currently underway.

HIQA is currently compiling five more reports following examinations of child protection standards. Speaking to TheJournal.ie last month, Minister for Children Francis Fitzgerald noted it would not be “all a good news story”, adding there would be gaps identified.

Camera and editing by Paul Hyland

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