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Tuesday, 6 Jul 2021

Written Answers Nos. 1-45

Questions Nos. 1 to 19, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions Nos. 20 to 43, inclusive, resubmitted.

Question No. 44 answered orally.

Data Protection

Questions (45)

Seán Sherlock


45. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth if he can guarantee that all children and young persons under the care of Tulsa are safe and do not have their personal data compromised in this period arising from ransomware. [36449/21]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I would like to thank the Deputy for his concerns about the safety and welfare of Tusla's service users, particularly children and young people, following the recent cyber attack on HSE and Tusla systems. The safety and welfare of children and young people has always been Tusla's highest priority.

Early in the pandemic, Tusla identified three core services to be prioritised: Child Protection, Children in Care, and Domestic, Sexual, and Gender Based Violence services. It was recognised that particular supports were required for those cohorts in the context of COVID-19.

Arising from the recent cyber attack, these key services were again prioritised. Social workers continued to visit children and to work with them and their families throughout this period. Decisions about risk to children continued to be made by social workers and their team leaders with families and other professionals.

Manual records were initially used by Tusla staff following the cyber attack. I am pleased to confirm that the National Child Care Information System was restored to full use on 28 June. Since then, Tusla has prioritised the input of new referrals to the system, including referrals received since the cyber attack. Case information and updates that were recorded on paper are also being systematically entered into the system. The recovery of this system is a great achievement, that comes from the strong teamwork of Tusla, the HSE, and its partners. Recovery work continues on other key systems.

I am satisfied, that Tusla has acted promptly and appropriately to protect the children in its care and to combat the risks it faces, following the cyber attack. The Government has done all it can to assist Tusla in its ICT recovery work, particularly in securing the sensitive personal information associated with the Agency's files and data systems. Tusla has publicly indicated that there has been no evidence of date, of data being used inappropriately.

Throughout this time, child protection services have continued to operate. I would like to publicly pay tribute to the front line staff of Tusla, who had already faced many difficulties since the emergence of COVID-19 last year. I believe we as a society owe a huge debt to the work of child protection and welfare staff, who contribute so much to the safety and wellbeing of children in our communities.

Tusla has undertaken a national advertising campaign to advise the public to make referrals to their local Tusla office by phone. Contact details can be accessed on the Tusla website.

Anyone with concerns in relation to the welfare of a child should continue to relay these concerns by phone, to the local Tusla Duty Social Work office, or An Garda Síochána. Equally, should anyone come into contact with what they perceive to be data that may be stolen from Tusla, they should immediately contact Tusla or An Garda Síochána.