Tusla – Child and Family Agency acknowledges the publication today of the HIQA inspection report in relation to fostering services in Carlow, Kilkenny and South Tipperary. HIQA inspection reports are an important measurement tool that enable the Agency to ensure services are continuously improved to meet the highest standards. This report highlights good practice and areas for improvement, which are actively being progressed through a comprehensive action plan.

Commenting on the report Marie Kennedy, Area Manager, Tusla, said: “Children were not found to be at risk at the time of the inspection. The report highlights good practice in areas such as the quality of assessments and supports for foster carers. A number of aspects of the service that require improvement are also identified. Work is underway to address these through a comprehensive action plan which has been submitted to, and accepted by, HIQA.”

Examples of good practice include:

  • Assessments of foster carers are comprehensive and of good quality;
  • There are safe systems for emergencies when children are placed with relative foster carers who have not yet been assessed;
  • The service offers innovative initiatives to support and up-skill foster carers;
  • The Foster Care Committee is effective and makes clear decisions;
  • The process for approval of foster carers is clear and in line with national policy, procedures and guidance;
  • The number of complaints and allegations made in the previous 12 months was small in the context of the overall service provided.

Standard 10 – Safeguarding and child protection

  • The area is implementing the National Procedure for Managing Concerns and Allegations against foster carers;
  • The Fostering Service do not place children where there are outstanding allegations against foster carers;
  • A system to ensure that ongoing safeguarding visits take place has been established;
  • A standard operating procedure has been developed to ensure that oversight of supervisory visits for foster placements takes place in accordance with National Standards.

Standard 15 – Supervision and support

  • Additional staff have been appointed, which will enable all foster carers to be allocated to a Link Social Worker;
  • The 18 unallocated foster carers have been visited by their Children in Care Social Worker. Support is also provided through group supports and visits from social care staff;
  • The current out-of-hours support service in the area has been extended to emergency foster carers.

Standard 17 – Reviews of foster carers

  • An electronic system is in place to schedule and track the reviews of foster carers in accordance with National Standards. This flags when reviews are due and is reviewed monthly;
  • Outstanding reviews have been prioritised and a schedule put in place for their completion;
  • Reviews will be prioritised where a report of a serious complaint or allegation has been made against a foster carer.

Standard 23 – The Foster Care Committee

  • Allegations will be notified to the Foster Care Committee in line with the Protocol for Managing Concerns and Allegations. All complaints will be tracked on a bi-monthly basis until the final outcome. The outcome of investigations will be notified to the Foster Care Committee.
  • Garda vetting has been processed for four outstanding members.

The action plan is closely linked to Tusla’s transformation programme which will enhance many aspects of the Agency, including organisational culture, HR strategy, governance systems, and further corporate functions.

As part of the transformation programme, the Agency has developed a new Child Protection and Welfare Strategy which will assist in providing a proportionate, timely and appropriate response to children and families, sharing responsibility and control with families and communities through co-created solutions and an inter-agency approach.

This will involve implementing a national approach to practice, which is based on the principles of ‘Children First’. The national approach to practice will be rolled out across all of the Agency’s services, with every function in the Agency being aligned to support the approach.