Minister Zappone: Recommendations of HIQA report will be 'implemented in full'

The Minister for Children has said the findings and recommendations of today's HIQA report into how Child and Family Agency Tusla manages allegations of child sexual abuse will be implemented in full.

    Issues identified by HIQA which need to be addressed as a matter of urgency by Tusla:
  • Screening and preliminary enquiry: The investigation found inconsistencies in practice around the screening of allegations of child sexual abuse and making preliminary enquiries into these allegations, which meant that not all children at potential risk were being assessed and where necessary, protected by Tusla, in a timely and effective manner.
  • Safety planning: Inconsistencies in safety-planning practice by Tusla for children meant that while some children were adequately safeguarded, others at potential risk were not. Even for children who had a safety plan, these plans were not always reviewed to ensure the continued safety and wellbeing of the child.
  • Management of retrospective cases: While there was a policy on managing allegations made by adults of abuse during their childhood, it did not include a standardised approach to direct and guide staff in case management, leading to variation in practice and delays. Some people were not told that an allegation of abuse had been made against them and others were given only limited information.

Minister Zappone says she is determined that the HIQA findings will be used as an opportunity to improve services to protect vulnerable children.

The minister said: "I welcome what Tusla has achieved and this is acknowledged by HIQA.

"I am however concerned about the slow pace of progress in some areas. We need to ‘up the tempo’ of reform now.

"We need to build on what Tusla has started doing.

"I believe that implementing the HIQA report in full is key to ensuring the ongoing safety of our most vulnerable children."

She added: " I am appointing Dr Moling Ryan to chair an independent expert quality assurance and oversight group to drive implementation of HIQA’s recommendations, and we will publish regular updates on the group’s work to keep the public informed of progress."

The minister continued: "HIQA’s analysis is clear – Tusla has made good progress, but there is an urgency to getting the rest of the job done so that we can ensure the best services possible to protect children.

Of course, there is no such thing as zero risk, but it’s vital that we take every possible step to manage and reduce that risk for vulnerable children.

Read the report in full here:

Barnardos have this afternoon expressed concerns about issues raised in the report but welcome the recommendations which offer an opportunity for learning and improvement of services.

Fergus Finlay, CEO of Barnardos, said: “The HIQA report highlights serious gaps and failings within our child protection services.

"However, the recommendations are welcome and do provide a clear pathway as to how services can be refined and improved - hopefully leading to a more child-centred and effective service which will benefit all children in Ireland.

Budget 2019 must ensure additional funding is allocated to Tusla to guarantee the implementation of these recommendations.

Fergus FInlay

Commenting on the launch of HIQA’s investigation, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance said today: “This investigation provides a real marker in the sand when it comes to understanding how child protection and welfare services are meeting the needs of children at risk.

"HIQA acknowledges considerable reforms that Tusla, a relatively young agency, has put in place to consolidate its services."

She continued: “Tusla was established in 2014 when Ireland was coming out of a recession with no lead-in time and without sufficient resources.

It is vital that an action plan is now put in place and published so these recommendations can become a reality and that public confidence in our child protection system is restored.

Tanya Ward

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