Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, is the statutory body with responsibility for child protection in Ireland. If I, or my officials, become aware of a situation in which a child is at risk, this information is communicated to Tusla as a matter of urgency.
If a child appears to be at risk of harm or neglect, concerns should be reported to Tusla. Anyone can report a concern about a child to Tusla, and information on how to do so is available on the Tusla website. If a child is at immediate risk or in danger, the Gardaí should be alerted without delay.
Tusla act immediately on notification of an immediate risk to a child. Tusla, when alerted to a child at immediate risk, for instance a young child left alone at home or abandoned, will contact AGS if the child needs to be removed from that situation.
Gardaí have specific powers under Section 12 of the Child Care Act to remove a child from a situation of danger, and under Section 13 of to deliver that child into the custody of Tusla. Tusla will at that point carry out an assessment to determine the child's needs. This may in some cases include applying for an Emergency Care Order. In all cases, a plan will be put in place to ensure that the child is safe from harm.
All foster care services and statutory residential centres are subject to inspection by the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA). Private and voluntary residential centres are inspected by Tusla against National Standards. Inspection reports of children's residential centres, fostering services and child protection services are also reviewed and analysed by my officials. The overview of these reports provides me with a level of assurance on the overall capacity of Tusla to identify and provide services to families and children who are at risk.
Tusla also has a dedicated Quality Assurance Team. This team produces monthly, quarterly and annual reports in respect of Tusla's functions, including detailed reporting on child safety and protection services. Tusla provides monthly, quarterly and annual information on children in care, their placement type, care status and allocation of social workers. Within my Department there is a Unit which scrutinises these reports and briefs me and senior officials on issues of note. The reports provide statistical evidence of improvements to child welfare and protection services and highlights challenges and areas where further improvement is required, such as the recruitment of additional social workers.
Officials from my Department meet Tusla management on a regular basis to review the level of service provision, including areas in need of improvement.