ISPCC welcomes that recommendations of investigation on handling of child sexual abuse allegations are to be implemented in full
ISPCC welcomes the commitments given today that HIQA’s significant findings in its investigation on the handling of child sexual abuse allegations by Tusla are accepted and that the report’s recommendations will be implemented in full.
The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) noted the acceptance today by Tusla of findings of an investigation by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) into the handling by the child and family agency, Tusla, of allegations of child sexual abuse against adults of concern.
The national child protection charity also welcomed Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. Katherine Zappone TD’s, commitment to implementing the recommendations of the report in full.
The report on the full statutory inquiry into Tusla’s policies and procedures in the handling of such referrals, as published today, highlights a series of shortcomings in how child abuse allegations were screened, in how safety plans for children were developed and managed and in how people who were the subject of an allegation of abuse were communicated with. The report makes recommendations including that the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and Tusla seek the assistance of the higher education and training bodies to create formal career paths for students and graduates to reinforce child protection and welfare services.
The ISPCC notes the clear findings by HIQA that it is imperative that Tusla puts in place clear governance structures to support the implementation of the findings and recommendations of this report. These structures must include a named person with Tusla who is accountable and has overall delegated responsibility for implementing the recommendations. The plan for implementing these recommendations ought to include clear timelines against each action and identified individuals in Tusla with responsibility for implementing those actions.
It notes with concern the finding that some children are being left at potential risk due to a series of failures at operational level, including failure to consistently implement Tusla’s national policies and business processes, accurately record important decisions made and actions taken, monitor the effectiveness of the steps taken to protect children, support staff members’ personal development and manage under-performance. These failings stem from a gap between national Tusla policy and practice on the ground.
The investigation into the practices of the child and family agency was established by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr. Katherine Zappone TD, in 2017, following an acknowledgement by the child and family agency Tulsa that an allegation against Garda whistleblower Seargant Maurice McCabe had been investigated in error.
ISPCC Director of Policy Cliodhna O’Neill said: “The ISPCC will take time to review the findings of this report and its implications for Ireland’s child protection systems.
“On first consideration today, the report seems to contain a series of concerning findings in relation to Tusla policies and procedures and how the agency handled information provided to it in error.
“We welcome the reports today that Tusla is outlining how it has been and continues to take actions to address the systemic and other deficits identified in the report.
“In addition, we welcome that Minister Zappone has made it clear she is committed to using the findings of the report published today as an opportunity to improve services to protect vulnerable children.
“Trust is an integral part of the child protection system, so it is imperative, as set out in the recommendations of the report, that Tusla responds on an ongoing basis to the findings of the report and communicates effectively how it uses these learnings on an ongoing basis to inform its changes process.
“Robust policies and procedures are central to good child protection practice. It is essential that everyone can have faith in how allegations of offences against children in Ireland are investigated to ensure that the safety of all children is protected in line with the highest possible quality standards.
“We note also that Tusla has highlighted the need for legislative reform in this area, to enable it to deal more effectively with allegations. Weaknesses in the law which compromise the ability of the state to respond effectively to allegations of abuse against children must be addressed as a matter of urgency and we urge all parties to support this move.
“The ISPCC has consistently supported the need for Tusla to be appropriately resourced and supported to help ensure that Ireland is a safe place in which to grow up. Greater investment in Ireland’s child protection systems is needed, including as noted in several key reports over the last number of years key resources and changes in practice to enhance inter agency cooperation, better resourcing of social work services, direct access to 24-hour services and better quality assurance.
“It should be acknowledged that progress is being made by Tusla in implementing cultural and organisational change to enhance child protection in Ireland.
“This report reinforces the need to ensure that child protection is afforded priority at the highest levels.
“Any system is only as good as the legislation and policies upon which it is built.
“Our child protection system must be provided with the necessary support, investment and oversight to ensure a robust and effective child protection system is in place to safeguard all children in Ireland.”