Report finds 'major non-compliances' in some Cork foster services

HIQA says a number of carers had no assessment in over three years

Report finds 'major non-compliances' in some Cork foster services

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An inspection of child foster care services in Cork has found major non-compliances in a number of areas.

The services are operated by the Child and Family Agency, Tusla.

The inspection by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) is part of its monitoring programme across all 17 Tusla service areas.

It says of the standards assessed in the Cork inspection, two were substantially compliant, six were found to be non-compliant and five were judged as major non-compliances.

The five major non-compliances were in relation to: safeguarding and child protection, asessment and approval of relative foster carers, spervision and support, reviews of foster carers and recruitment and retention of an appropriate range of foster carers.

Data showed that there were 17 child protection and welfare concerns or allegations about foster carers in the 12 months prior to the inspection.

However, on reviewing the child protection concerns and allegations log, inspectors found that there had been 29 such concerns or allegations.

It says while these concerns or allegations were categorised correctly, they "did not consistently receive the appropriate response".

HIQA says that due to the number of "significant issues" that arose, it was not assured that management oversight and monitoring was sufficient.

It says a significant number of foster carers - 43% - had not had a review in over three years.

There was also a significant delay in commencing and completing relative carer assessments.

"This issue had been highlighted in the previous HIQA inspection of the area in 2013", HIQA says.

"While this was on the area risk register, relative carers had not been allocated a link social worker in order to mitigate the risks.

"All relative carers were allocated a link social worker immediately following the inspection."

But it says there were some good practice identified - such as comprehensive assessments of foster carers, a clear process for approval of foster carers and a new training event was being rolled out to foster carers this year.

Other issues

However, a number of immediate issues of concern were identified, including: 

  • The adequacy of investigations following allegations against foster carers and the lack of a system to ensure no further children were placed with carers for whom there was an open or ongoing concern
  • A lack of adequate safeguarding measure in place for relative carers and foster carers without link workers 
  • Adults living in foster care households without garda vetting
  • Relative carers who had not been approved by the foster care committee
  • Inadequate support and supervision of foster carers
  • Foster carers where the number of children placed exceeded the standards
  • Poor record keeping and information governance

A meeting was held with the service director following the inspection, who confirmed that immediate action had been taken and further action would be taken to address the concerns.

This includes the creation of new posts and a review of the management structures, which would be completed by the end of June 2017.

In response to the report, Tusla says: "A number of areas have been highlighted for improvement and Tusla has submitted a comprehensive action plan to actively address these areas."

Patricia Finlay, service director at Tusla, says: "This inspection report shows example of good practice in a very busy area, for example effective training is really useful for foster carers, who were positive about the training provided and said the training content was communicated to them by their link workers and in the annual newsletter.

"There are areas highlighted in the report which require improvement and a comprehensive action plan has been developed to ensure these improvements are made in a timely way, many of these improvements are already underway."

The report can be viewed in full here