Serious shortcomings in foster care services in Carlow, Kilkenny and South Tipperary are outlined in a report from the Health Information and Quality Authority.
Inspectors found that the allocation of social workers to children in care by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, was “chaotic and not child-centred”.
Children experienced frequent changes to their allocated social workers and spent long periods without one.
At the time of the inspection it emerged that more than one in five (22%) did not have an allocated social worker.
The children without an allocated social worker or who experienced multiple changes in social workers told inspectors they were “tired of sharing my story over and over”.
Just weeks before turning 18, a teenager without a social worker for over two years had one appointed.
Hiqa inspected the Carlow/Kilkenny/South Tipperary foster care services, located in Tusla's south region over two days in May this year.
The region has experienced significant challenges in retain social workers and that has resulted in children not being allocated a social worker to oversee their placement and ensure their needs were met.
Just over a year ago Hiqa met with the chief operating officer of Tusla and the area service director to “escalate” their concerns about the lack of professional oversight for children in care in the area.
It emerged from the latest inspection that there were still a high number of social work vacancies and retention of staff remained “very poor.”
Measures had been taken to address the risks associated with high levels of allocated children in care but they did not “effectively” improve the service for the children.
“Allocation of social workers to children in care was chaotic and not child-centred,” the report states.
Significant events were not always responded to and action agreed at care planning reviews was not followed up and, as a result, support services were not always provided.
Data provided to inspectors showed that 72 out of 312 children (22%) did not have an allocated social worker.
A review of files showed that following an increase in staffing some children were only allocated a social worker in the weeks prior to the inspection.
Many of the children had experienced long periods without an allocated social worker.
“Children who were visited were not visited in line with statutory requirements and the quality and oversight of the visits was poor,” the report states.