I take it that the Deputy is referring to a National Review Panel report that was published on 28 May 2019, the summary report entitled "Review of a serious incident: abuse of children in the care of the health board/HSE (2003 – 2011)". I am currently considering the recommendations in the light of the ongoing changes being implemented by Tusla in terms of their workforce and social work practice. It is important to note that a person has been convicted in this case, and was sentenced in April last year.
I would like to reiterate my sincere acknowledgement of the pain and distress suffered by the three women at the centre of this report.
The period in question relates primarily to 2003 to 2011, when the child protection and welfare services were part of the HSE. However. these services are now with Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, which was established in 2014. By way of context the report notes that the decisions in the case were made in good faith and that the social work department were very committed to the children in their care. It presents a clear analysis of the failures that occurred in managing the case.
The HR and performance management functions were, at the time, within the structures of the HSE. I have been advised that the Child Care Manager at the time did not have line management of the staff involved, and staff supervision policy and caseload weighting was not as developed as it is now. Currently, Tusla's processes for managing staff include the following: all staff working with Tusla are required to practice in line with agreed policies and procedures; a management team is in place to actively manage individual and team performance; staff are supervised in line with the guidance set out in Tusla’s Supervision Policy; and, since 2011, all social workers are registered with CORU which regulates the profession.
The report published on 28 May last includes four recommendations for Tusla. In summary the recommendations refer to a) reviewing the role of the link social worker; b) developing a service the brings the relevant agencies together to minimise the re-traumatisation of re-interviewing and this recommendation appears to refer to the One House/Barnahus model which will be piloted in Galway this year; c) greater co-operation between agencies in managing complex cases which may take the form of a steering/management style group, in particular with An Garda Síochána and the HSE; and d) the inclusion of child sexual abuse risk assessment and knowledge/skills as a core element of the Signs of Safety approach. The Report acknowledges that the findings may have been addressed through existing reforms.
The detail of the recommendations need consideration but much of the work needed to address the findings is addressed in the five year Child Protection and Welfare Strategy launched in 2017. I am determined that the reforms underway and the roll out of the Child Protection and Welfare Strategy will be completed to ensure that the risks of this happening again are being fully mitigated.