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ISPCC highlights concern at failure of foster care services to meet minimum standards

Apr, 2017
The ISPCC has today, Tuesday 18th April, expressed concern that two HIQA inspections into foster care services found a concerning number of standards either did not meet requirements or presented significant risks. In the inspection reports, the first into a Tusla-provided service, only one standard was met, 20 needed improvement and there were significant risks identified in five areas. In another inspection report into a ‘for profit’ foster care service, just three standards were met, 16 required improvement and one was identified as significant risk.
The ISPCC welcomes the aspects of the reports which noted that a number of elements of these services were delivered in an effective manner – and in particular the report noted that all children had been allocated a social work.  The ‘for profit’ organisation “committed to providing and delivering a high quality, safe service” while in relation to the Tusla-provided service it was highlighted that “social workers promoted and respected children’s rights.”
However, there are a number of areas of concern outlined in the reports. In the Tusla-provided service, the concerns included the following:
  • There was no system in place to ensure all staff were vetted in line with Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children and Tusla’s recruitment policy
  • Long delays in commencement and completion of foster care applicant assessments. Meanwhile, children were placed in care with applicants who were later determined unsuitable – this raises concerns for safety and well-being of the child
  • Records did not reflect that the system in place to manage allegations against foster carers ensured adherence to Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children and that investigations were completed in a timely manner with appropriate safeguards in place for children
  • Number of changes for some children over a short period of time in relation to their social worker – this impacted on their relationship with their social worker.
  • Quality of care plans varied from excellent to poor with poor quality aftercare plans
  • The service was not managed effectively – there were significant challenges in completing assessments of relative carers, ensuring children had up-to-date care plans, ensuring fosters carers had timely reviews, allocating link social workers and ensuring all allegations were managed in line with policy and Children First
  • The area did not have sufficient staff in place to deliver the service; there were a number of unfilled posts within the service
The ‘for profit’ service inspection report highlighted concerns around child protection and welfare which had not been managed in line with Children First (2011). It also noted that the recording, reporting and oversight of incidents and significant events was not adequate and systems required improvement.
ISPCC Chief Executive Grainia Long stated: “The HIQA report states that the Tusla service in particular was 'crisis led rather than delivered in a planned manner'. The fact that just one of our national standards has been met is extremely disappointing. These HIQA inspections took place in November and December 2016 and follow a pattern of similar inspections held in 2016. Minimum required standards are not being met in a way that children accessing these services have a right to expect.  In particular, the issue of vetting staff, assessing foster carers and safeguarding children is consistently referred to in the Tusla-provided service report.
“It is the right of every child in the care of the state to be protected and as the report demonstrates, improvements are required in Garda vetting and adherence to Children First.”
“All children require robust systems for their protection – systems that are resourced, and that are followed. Foster care is now the responsibility of Tusla, the child and family agency. There is a need for a significant focus in this area, as a matter of urgency. There must be comprehensive assessments and ongoing monitoring of foster placements.”