Section 3 of the Child Care Act 1991 places a statutory responsibility on Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, to promote the welfare of children who are not receiving adequate care and protection.
Tusla has a statutory duty to respond to reports of children who are not receiving adequate care and protection. Tusla assesses the information received and the child and family’s situation, and provides appropriate social work intervention and family support services. Where necessary in the best interest of the child, children are received into the care of Tusla.
Tusla has a dedicated Quality Assurance Team which produces monthly, quarterly and annual reports in respect of Tusla's functions, including detailed reporting on child safety and protection services. The reports are published on Tusla's website and are scrutinised by my officials. Issues of note are brought to my attention. The reports provide statistical evidence of improvements to child welfare and protection services and highlight challenges and areas where further improvement is required, such as the recruitment of additional social workers. Most recent reports indicate that 89% (5,233/5,851) of children in care nationally had an allocated social worker at the end of Q2 2021; down three percentage points from Q1 2021 (92%).
Additionally, Tusla child protection and welfare, and alternative care services are inspected against the relevant Standards and Regulations by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA). These inspection reports are also published, and the findings used to inform the development and improvement of services within Tusla. Most inspections are generally positive, and reflect both examples of good practice and dedicated staff. However, some reports identify challenges, within individual areas, to maintaining a consistently high standard of service, including the impact of staffing shortages, and difficulties in finding appropriate placements for children and young people.
Officials from my Department meet Tusla management on a regular basis to review the level of service provision, including areas in need of improvement. The recruitment and retention of social workers is a priority for Tusla, and in that regard there is a significant amount of work being done, both by Tusla and my officials, to increase the recruitment of social workers.