I believe the Deputy is referring to HIQA’s inspection of child protection services in the Dublin South Central Tusla region, which was published on the 17th January. I am concerned about the issues raised in the report, which found that most of the standards against which the area was inspected were not met. The report found that Tusla had identified the majority of problems that needed to be solved prior to HIQA’s inspection, but that the planned improvements were not happening fast enough, and I agree with that assessment.
It is important to note that the report did show that appropriate action was taken in urgent cases, and there was no evidence of harm to children.
A significant factor outlined in the report which influenced the quality and capacity of the service to deliver safe, consistent service is the shortage of social work staff. In the Dublin South Central area one of the two duty/intake offices which deals with child protection referrals was operating, in the period prior to inspection, with only two social workers, instead of the six required. These vacancies were coupled with the staff gaps at team leader level in the area.
I am advised that additional principal and social work posts have been assigned to the area, and managers are charged with driving service improvements forward. A principal social worker has been appointed to oversee the work of two teams that deal with referrals and early assessments, and another principal social worker has been appointed to drive forward the improvement plan.
All open child protection and welfare cases within the areas are being reviewed, to ensure that interim safety plans are adequate. The new service improvement principal social worker will conduct quarterly sample audits of safety plans, and prepare reports highlighting areas of good practice and areas for improvement.
I can assure the Deputy that I will be monitoring the progress made on implementing the improvement plan closely.