Hiqa reveals major non-compliance in foster care Garda vetting

A health watchdog inspection has found “major non-compliances” in Garda vetting at foster care services in Kerry, and some moderate non-compliances at similar services in Galway and Roscommon.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) revealed that over 40% of the foster carers in Kerry had not had a review in over three years.

The watchdog also showed that systems for ensuring that Garda vetting was updated for foster carers and that all household members over 16 years of age were Garda vetted, were “not adequate”.

Hiqa also found that there were long delays in the assessments of relative carers, and preliminary checks were not always completed for all children placed in an emergency with relative carers.

The report stated that in Kerry “the process in place to ensure that Garda vetting was updated every three years was not robust and data provided to inspectors showed that 59 foster carers had not been vetted in more than three years”.

“The principal social worker told inspectors that updated Garda vetting had been sought but not yet received for 14 of the 59 foster carers prior to the inspection,” it read.

Inspectors reported there were 46 young adults in foster care households that did not have Garda vetting.

On the delays in assessing relative carers, the health watchdog found that in one example a relative foster carer had children placed with them in 2013 but the assessment was not completed until June 2016.

Meanwhile, a separate report on foster services in Galway and Roscommon found that 151 foster carers (52%) had not had their Garda vetting updated in more than three years.

Responding to the reports, the Child and Family Agency Tusla said that while there are many examples of good practice, “there are also a number of areas identified for improvement in both reports”.

It said it has submitted action plans to Hiqa outlining what is being done to increase compliance with the national standards.

“Hiqa inspection reports are an important measurement tool and allow us to ensure that Tusla services operate at the highest possible standard,” Dermot Halpin, Tusla Service director, said.

“The areas identified for improvement in both reports are being actively progressed through comprehensive action plans.

“Hiqa’s inspection report of foster care services in Kerry shows examples of good practice, for example, all foster carers received training before their approval and 100% of foster carers were allocated a link social worker, with the majority of foster carers having frequent support and supervision visits,” he said.

“In Galway / Roscommon, the report shows that the fostering team is committed to providing the best possible service to children and foster carers through the provision of additional supports such as social care workers, occupational therapists, and respite care for those who need it and a range of supplementary training options,” Mr Halpin said.

Tusla said up to date Garda vetting has been requested for all foster carers, foster care committee members, and those over 16, where required, and that a new Garda vetting alert system has been established to notify six months in advance of the expiry date of current Garda vetting.

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