Tusla promises reform and better responses by 2022

The agency says it is adopting a new national approach to child protection

Tusla promises reform and better responses by 2022

Image: Tusla

A new child protection and welfare strategy has vowed to put children first and have more timely responses.

The Child and Family Agency, Tusla, has launched its Child Protection and Welfare Strategy for the next five years.

The agency says it is adopting a new national practice approach to child protection and welfare.

It says this will ensure all staff engage with children and families using "one consistent approach."

The strategy says: "Children and families will be at the centre of assessment and decision-making" - and the the approach will be based on strengths and evidence-based with a focus on outcomes.

"Clear thresholds will be defined for child protection intervention, including transfer to/from alternative care, case closure, and diversion to partner organisations."

Image: Tusla

It is also moving to a "system-wide learning environment" - which it says will ensure proper learning and development of staff across the organisation.

But it says this will take time to implement.

The group says meaningful measures will be developed to assess its own work by examining how it is achieving its welfare objectives.

These measures will include looking at the outcomes for children, families, staff and the organisation.

There will also be organisational culture reform within it - while it will work at uilding and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders both internally and externally.

"Sensitive and challenging area"

Speaking at the launch, Tusla Chief Executive Fred McBride said: "Since the Agency's establishment, we have led the most comprehensive reform of these services in Ireland and our new Child Protection and Welfare Strategy is a hugely important step in this journey."

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone added: "I welcome this comprehensive and child centred Child Protection and Welfare Strategy... I am very aware that this is a sensitive and challenging area of work; families will be clearly supported and children protected by Tusla.

"Social workers will be guided in their work and aspirations by the high expectations, which they support, in this strategy."

The reform follows a number of high profile cases involving Tusla.

In February last year, the Tusla chief executive Gordon Jeyes, said he did not know if any of the staff involved with alleged abuse at a foster home are still working in the system.

A woman with intellectual disabilities - known as 'Grace' - was left in the care of a foster home, at the centre of the alleged sexual abuse, for up to 14 years.

While in February this year, the agency apologised to garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe, after it emerged the agency had created a file of false sexual abuse allegations around him "in error".

The untrue allegations were passed to gardaí but Sergeant McCabe was never informed.

And a report from HIQA last month found that there was no system in place to ensure all foster care staff were vetted in line with national guidelines or Tusla's own recruitment policy.