Hiqa report finds Tusla services in three counties failed to report some suspected abuse cases to gardaí

Tusla's child protection and welfare services in the Carlow, Kilkenny and South Tipperary area failed to notify gardaí about every allegation of suspected abuse and neglect it received.

This is one of a number of criticisms made in a report by the Health Information and Quality Authority following an “announced” inspection in January.

Inspectors reviewed 29 cases involving allegations of physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect.

In eight of the cases (27%), there was no evidence on file that gardaí had been notified; three were escalated during the inspection due to a potential risk to children.

“Inspectors found that the system in place to ensure that all relevant information was notified was not strong enough,” the report states.

The service area is one of 17 in Tusla – the Child and Family Agency and is situated in the south-east of the country.

Hiqa found improvements in the screening stage of the child protection and welfare referral process since the service was last inspected in 2017.

However, there was a “drift and delay” in the progression and completion of preliminary enquiries with the time taken ranging from two to 11 months from receipt of referral.

Inspectors also found that the volume of cases on the waiting list remained “unchanged or unimproved” because of an increased number of referrals.

Hiqa escalated 10 cases during the inspection in order to seek immediate action where there was a potential risk to children.

Inspectors also examined 19 cases from the waiting list for initial assessment and found that it was taking between three to 17 months for a response.

Inspectors escalated four cases to the principal social worker where there was a potential risk to children.

In three cases, children had not been seen between the time of receipt of the allegation and the inspection. The waiting time ranged from 10 to 12 months.

Gardaí were not notified about one of the four cases where physical abuse was alleged.

Hiqa also found that staffing deficits presented a risk to the service last year. In June last year staff shortages peaked with 13 core permanent vacancies.

“The level of movement of staff in and out of the area during this time was significant,” the report states.

Inspectors reviewed 11 closed cases and found that the majority had been closed appropriately.

However, one case was escalated during the inspection because it should have remained open.

The principal social worker told inspectors that the case had been closed unintentionally, due to a technical administrative error.

Following a review, the case was re-opened in order to complete an initial assessment and review safety arrangements.

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