Overpayments problem persists at Tusla

Overpayments problem persists at Tusla

Overpayments totalling €1.145m have been made to staff at Tusla since it was established five years ago.

When the Child and Family Agency was launched in January 2014, the value of overpayments was at €224,000. Since then, the value has increased five-fold and now stands at €1.145m, according to figures contained in Tusla's annual report, published yesterday.

In the same report, the Child and Family Agency says it will require additional funding in the coming years to deliver on core objectives.

Tusla continues to spend on goods and services without following proper procurement rules — the value of non-compliant contracts in 2018 was €5.4m, up from €4.7m in 2017.

The contracts are split between business support services and social, health and cultural services.

The report points to “historical under investment in ICT systems” leaving the procurement system “heavily reliant on self- reporting, leading to gaps in information, resulting in delays and difficulty identifying expenditures that require procurement”.

The report says:

These arrangements existed prior to the establishment of the agency and remain to be fully addressed; they are difficult to cease without adverse service impacts.

On overpayments, it says this was inherited when it took over child and family services from the HSE in 2014. The value has “incrementally increased each year from 2014 onwards”, the report says.

Of the €1.145m overpaid last year, almost one-third of the value related to 17 overpayment errors.

The report says the agency ”continues to focus on mitigating against overpayments and ensuring repayment plans are in place where they do occur”.

Tusla board chair Pat Rabbitte says in the report that the agency “recognises that there is a need for continued emphasis on, and development of, the control environment and a focus on the need to drive a single organisation-wide culture of compliance”.

Among the notable achievements in 2018 was the provision to all 17 Tusla areas of the National Childcare Information System.

It means social workers have, for the first time, a national database where they can share information when appropriate regarding concerns for children who are at risk of abuse.

Tusla managed 55,136 child-protection and welfare referrals in 2018, more than one every 10 minutes.

Another key achievement was the launch of Tusla’s new National Out-of-Hours Social Work Service which provides a single point of contact for gardaí and social work professionals to make an out-of-hours, child-protection and welfare referral to Tusla.

The number of complaints about Tusla services was 732 in 2018. Lack of response/ no response to communications/ poor communications accounted for more than 20%.

The agency has not yet developed an efficient means of gathering and analysing complaints data, the report says.

This story has been amended since original publication

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