Vulnerable children in Kildare and West Wicklow were at “significant risk” due to insufficient resources and a backlog in assessing cases, according to a new Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) inspection report.
The Inspection of the HSE Child Protection and Welfare Service in Kildare/West Wicklow Local Health Area by Hiqa found that 721 referrals were awaiting an initial assessment. The majority of those cases were child welfare referrals.
A further 77 cases were awaiting more assessment, with the report stating: “Resources were not sufficient to deal with backlogs in assessments that had accrued over time.
“These cases presented a significant risk to the safety of the child protection and welfare service.”
In the same local health area, which also takes in parts of Dublin South-West, there had been nine serious incidents, including one death, in the two-year period prior to inspection.
In the year prior to inspection, there were 1,676 reported referrals about children, and 773 — or 46% — of these were in relation to children previously known to services.
In one case, the principal social worker acknowledged that there had been one case where the potential for organisational abuse was not identified as such at point of referral to the LHA.
The inspection found one standard was not met and 20 were only met in part.
Issues included staff resources and significant delays experienced by some children with “high thresholds of harm had to be reached before welfare cases were assessed”.
The local health area did not systematically analyse information to find out whether some cases were being closed too early or if there had been a change in the family circumstances — meaning the effectiveness of social work intervention for these children and or families was not known to the social work department.
The report also found that 287 referrals to the LHA between October and December last year had yet to have an initial assessment carried out by the time of the inspection in May, while one case had been awaiting an initial assessment since July 2012.
The report found the LHA had implemented Children First guidelines and that day-to-day social work was found to be respectful, rights-based, and needs-led.
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