I thank the Deputy for his important question. When an inspection is carried out by HIQA, the process requires the service inspected to develop an Action Plan in response to the findings made by Inspectors.
This Action Plan is agreed with HIQA in advance of the publication of the report. All elements of the Action Plans are time-bound, and a designated Tusla official is responsible for executing the Plan.
HIQA undertakes follow-up inspections to examine the progress being made against Action Plans.
In 2017, HIQA carried out themed inspections across the 17 Tusla areas, in the area of foster care. The inspections assessed the recruitment, assessment, approval, supervision and review of foster carers and inspected against eight of the 27 Standards in Foster Care.
A number of positive findings were reported. Assessments of foster carers were of good quality, as were supports for foster carers caring for children with complex needs, and reviews of ongoing placements. Families with allocated link workers were satisfied with the quality of the service and support they received.
The Deputy will be aware that County Tipperary falls within two of the Tusla regions - the MidWest, and the region of Carlow/Kilkenny/South Tipperary.
HIQA published inspection reports for these regions in August and October 2017, respectively.
HIQA found that aspects of the standards were not met in both areas. The clear themes coming through were the need for better oversight by the Foster Care Committee, how the overall system is working, management of complaints and allegations, recruitment of staff, the replenishment and broadening of foster care panels, improved supports and supervision of foster carers.
By and large children in foster care do well and that is in large part due to the dedication of the foster carers, supported by their social work team. However, HIQA raises some consistent and worrying concerns. I, and my officials, are actively engaging with Tusla with a view to addressing the findings in HIQA reports and delivering the best possible service to children in foster care.
I am pleased to note that HIQA accepted Tusla’s action plans in relation to the inspection reports in both areas.
I value the work that HIQA does to assess and monitor the quality of the foster care service provided by Tusla. In future inspections HIQA will, I understand, speak directly with children in foster care placements, so that we can learn from their views and experiences.