Three reports published today by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) show considerable variations in the quality, safety and management of HSE foster care services in the Dublin area.
The Authority found significant and serious shortcomings in the duty of care to a number of children in foster care in the HSE Dublin North West and Dublin North Central local health areas.
Some of the main findings in these two areas included:
- Lengthy periods when children were not visited by a social worker;
- Between a third and half of the children in foster care did not have a social worker assigned to them;
- Significant deficiencies in the vetting, assessment and approval of carers, particularly relative carers;
- Serious concerns in relation to child protection practices and the assessment of child protection concerns;
- Evidence of some extremely poor record keeping and information management practices;
- Poor governance and management of foster care services.
The reports concluded that HSE fostering services in both areas were in a "state of crisis" at the time of the inspection, HIQA said.
A separate inspection by the Authority in HSE Dublin North local health area however found foster care practices to be mostly safe and well organised.
“We had immediate concerns in Dublin North West and Dublin North Central areas having found that many children were being cared for by carers who had not been appropriately vetted and many children did not have a social worker nor were they seen by a social worker for significant periods of time, sometimes years," said HIQA Chief Executive Dr Tracey Cooper.
Following a review of all cases of children in foster care in these areas, Dr Cooper wrote to the Chief Executive of the HSE bringing the concerns to his attention and seeking an immediate response.
The HSE has developed an action plan to begin addressing immediate deficiencies in relation to foster care services in Dublin North Central and Dublin North West.
“In Dublin North West and Dublin North Central, both of which were poorly managed, there was evidence of non-compliance with the child care regulations and a lack of recognition at senior management level that the child care regulations exist to safeguard and protect vulnerable children," Dr Cooper said.
"The findings in these areas showed an unsafe approach to protecting and safeguarding children – this is unacceptable,” said Dr Cooper.
Dr Cooper said, “The HSE has failed in its statutory duty of care to a significant number of children in the Dublin North West and Dublin North Central areas and the impact on many of them has been a negative one.
"This serious and unacceptable situation should never have been allowed to happen and the HSE must ensure now that it is providing effective, accountable services and safeguarding children to a safe standard across the country."