Hiqa finds 'unexplained delays' in reporting child abuse

Unexplained delays in notifying Gardaí about suspected child abuse and an absence of evidence of Garda vetting for staff have been highlighted in inspections of child protection services in Cavan/Monaghan and Kerry.
Hiqa finds 'unexplained delays' in reporting child abuse
The Health Information and Quality Authority found unexplained delays in notifying gardaí about suspected child abuse. File image. Picture: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland
The Health Information and Quality Authority found unexplained delays in notifying gardaí about suspected child abuse. File image. Picture: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Unexplained delays in notifying gardaí about suspected child abuse and an absence of evidence of garda vetting for staff have been highlighted in inspections of child protection services in Cavan/Monaghan and Kerry.

The issues have been raised by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) in two inspection reports on the Child Protection and Welfare Service operated by Tusla in the Cavan/Monaghan and Kerry service areas.

Inspectors in Cavan/Monaghan reviewed eight records where it was necessary for Tusla to notify An Garda Síochána of suspected crimes of wilful neglect or physical or sexual abuse against children.

"There were unexplained delays in sending four notifications to An Garda Síochána by between 13 days and over two months. The fifth case had not been notified to gardaí at the time of inspection and this was brought to the attention of the manager," states the report.

Inspectors also found improvements were required in safe recruitment practices as gaps were found in some staff files.

Seven out of 10 staff files inspected had gaps in documentation, such as an absence of evidence of garda vetting or police vetting from other jurisdictions as needed, no copies of qualifications, no photo identifications and no employment history or verification of references.

However, the service was praised for a significant reduction in the waiting list for initial assessments over the previous 10 months.

In the Kerry service area, inspectors found improvements were needed in governance arrangements in order to provide a timely and consistent service to children.

Hiqa said improvements were also required in management oversight of children’s records on the national child care information system (NCCIS) to ensure that records accurately reflected all decisions and work completed. Not all information was recorded or uploaded to the system in relation to children’s records.

However, inspectors found that some measures have since been implemented which improved the timeliness of the screening of new referrals.

Cavan/Monaghan area manager for Tusla Lisa Anderson said that since the inspection, "we have tracked all the measures identified within our service improvement plan, and will continue to make further improvements in the weeks and months ahead".

Breda Lynch, Tusla area manager for the Kerry region, said its own audits in have also identified areas where improvements are needed.

"We are actively working through these issues, and have taken a number of important steps to drive rapid improvement. Teams have been re-configured in the area with new staffing across all grades and improved governance and oversight," she said.

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