A CLAIM by the Health Service Executive (HSE) that all children in foster care in Cork city and county had an allocated social worker was not borne out during an inspection of foster care services.
In a report published yesterday, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) said their inspectors had been supplied with data by the HSE in June 2009 indicating that “100% of children” in Cork city, North Cork and West Cork had an allocated social worker – but during an inspection earlier this year, it emerged 25 cases were unallocated due to maternity leave.
The HSE was also unable to give a figure for the number of children who had not been visited in the past six months by a child and family social worker.
Inspectors said they “found it difficult” to source information on child protection concerns or complaints “as this information was not discretely recorded but part of the running record in the case notes”.
It also emerged that children did not always have an individual file as required, and that in some cases, information on one child was found in a file for the whole family.
Two social work department managers interviewed expressed concerns about the possibility that reports of alleged neglect and abuse were not always attended to in a timely manner due to workloads and the requirement to address children-in-care regulations and standards.
In west Cork, there was no childcare manager to chair the Child Protection Notification Management Team (CPNMT).
In North Cork, the childcare manager post had become vacant during the inspection and the management system ceased.
In the 12 months prior to the inspection, there were 24 reports of child protection concerns, however inspectors found no evidence from the file reviews of ongoing risks or concerns to the 20 children involved.
There were five reports relating to allegations of physical abuse, but inspectors said it was not always clear who took the lead in the management of a reported child protection concern.
Inspectors were told throughout the inspection that foster placements for teenagers, children with disabilities and foreign-national children, were urgently required. “There was no evidence found that a specific strategy or approach was in place to source families to meet the identified need,” HIQA said.
Inspectors also expressed concern about the working relationship between the South Lee Local Health Office social work department and the Fostering Resource Unit, and its impact on foster care placements.
Inspectors expressed concern about the vulnerability of children, and families with a low level of support.
The HSE said it would be working closely with HIQA to implement the report’s extensive recommendations.
The HSE said “in general, inspectors found that there was evidence of good practice in some aspects of the foster care service in Cork city and county”.
Fine Gael spokesperson on children, Charlie Flanagan, yesterday called for a national audit of foster care services by HIQA on foot of its latest findings.
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