By Joe Leogue
The Child and Family Agency, Tusla, has spent over €90,000 on public relations in just over a year, in addition to the agency’s own internal communications office, for services that include preparing officials for Oireachtas committees appearances.
A Labour TD described the spend as “troubling” and called on the agency to focus on the safeguarding of children, instead of “image and spin”.
Tusla revealed the amount to the Irish Examiner after the agency’s appearance at the Oireachtas committee on children and youth affairs, where TDs and senators questioned chief executive Fred McBride and other Tusla officials over a Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) report on failures within the agency.
Responding to questions from Cork East TD Seán Sherlock, Tusla officials confirmed it has hired Q4, a PR agency, for services including preparation work for officials appearing at Oireachtas committees.
Tusla has since told the Irish Examiner it paid Q4PR €92,779 between February 2017 and May 2018.
The figure did not include the agency’s expenditure on its own corporate communications section.
However, Tusla asserted it was the internal communications section, and not Q4, that prepared Tusla officials for last week’s committee hearing.
“On occasion, Q4PR has provided some input in respect of Oireachtas Committee appearances. However, Q4PR did not provide specific preparation to Tusla in relation to Tusla’s appearance before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs on Wednesday, June 20. The Corporate Communications Section provided communications advice directly in relation to this,” the agency said in a statement.
“Tusla engaged Q4 PR to provide support in relation to the wide range of activity the Communications Section manages. Support provided includes strategic communications, issues management, communications training, public affairs, assistance with strategy development and general support to the existing communications function within the agency.
“Tusla has been working with Q4PR since February 2017 to supplement the work being done directly by the communications team.
“It should also be noted that as with all other corporate services in Tusla, the Corporate Communications Section is currently building capacity through recruitment of specialist roles in internal engagement, brand identity and graphic design and content and digital positions, to ensure timely and up to date information is being shared about the various services we provide; internally with staff and externally with the public, media and key stakeholders,” Tusla said.
Reacting to the figures, Mr Sherlock yesterday said Tusla management should be less concerned about its image and more concerned with safeguarding children.
“Tusla is a young organisation but there are still significant gaps in terms of service delivery as we are seeing through these Hiqa reports,” he said.