A number of serious issues impacting on foster care services have been highlighted in a new report published today.
The shortcomings were published in a HIQA report on services operated by the Tusla Child and Family Agency in the Carlow/Kilkenny/South Tipperary areas.
The report found that the allocation of social workers to children in care "was chaotic and not child centred".
HIQA, which carried out its inspection over three days in May, found there were "significant challenges" in retaining social workers which meant that some children were left without one.
There were a number of vacancies left to be filled and poor retention of staff, and children were often left for long periods without a social worker.
The report details how children were visited by several different people from Tusla, with support services not always provided due to the shortage of staff.
New inspection report on the fostering services operated by Tusla in the Carlow/Kilkenny/South Tipperary area published this morning. https://t.co/lLDgnbLGaE
— HIQA (@HIQA) October 3, 2019
Children told inspectors they were "tired of sharing my story over and over" when dealing with multiple social workers.
One reported "so many social workers coming to me and then going".
Another said: "I was without a social worker for over two years, and one was appointed three weeks before I was due to turn 18".
Information gathered by inspectors found that 72 out of 312 children (22%) did not have an allocated social worker.
The report found that after an increase in staffing, some children were only allocated a social worker in the weeks coming up to the inspection.
It said: "Children who were visited were not visited in line with statutory requirements, and the quality and oversight of the visits were poor."
"Disorganised and poorly managed" systems to manage care planning meant that children’s needs were not being met, while the planning itself was "significantly delayed and of poor quality".
Aftercare was also "significantly under-resourced and not well established", while the report also found issues with the reporting of complaints and managerial oversight.
However, there were also positive elements to the report, with some children speaking positively about their social workers and foster carers.
HIQA found there were improvements in relation to how allegations and serious concerns were managed, while the areas did their best to place children within the locality or with relatives.
Responding to today's publication, Dermot Halpin, Service Director for Tusla South, said: “Key areas requiring improvements were identified in this inspection report, and a number of improvement measures have been taken since the inspection took place to remedy the issues identified.
"These improvements are being carried out on an ongoing basis. Further progress will be made in the months ahead, and timeframes to achieve this will be monitored rigorously.
"Our very detailed and robust action plan has been accepted by HIQA, and we are working proactively towards reaching all of our targets in this regard."