Senior managers within Tusla in Cork told inspectors that unless the area was "appropriately resourced" there would be an impact on vulnerable children.
The report on a risk-based inspection of Cork child protection and welfare services is based on a follow-up inspection last November by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa). At the time, there were 89 children whose names were entered into the Child Protection Notification System (CPNS) and who were subject to a child protection safety plan.
The initial inspection, in January of last year, had uncovered "significant concerns", with weak governance arrangements, deficiencies in case supervision, risk management and quality assurance and "an inconsistency of service provided to children on the CPNS".
The follow-up inspection found significant improvements had been made, with staff telling Hiqa "there had been a much greater focus on children on the CPNS".
"Nonetheless, the area manager along with the principal social workers told inspectors that the rate of change required was a significant challenge to implement. They said they believed the Tusla Cork service area was not appropriately resourced and their capacity to implement and sustain changes over the long term for children on the CPNS would inadvertently impact on service deliver in other functions."
Hiqa said there had been improvements in a number of areas but noted the chairs of case protection conference (CPC) meetings had not received appropriate permissions on Tusla's National Childcare Information System (NCCIS).
A working group formed to share lessons learned from serious incident reviews had also not completed its work by the time of the follow-up inspection.
It also found that there had been staffing issues within the CPC service which impacted capacity to schedule CPCs in line with demand.
However, according to the report: "Improvements in how the social work service was delivered had positive impacts for children on the CPNS. Inspectors found that no children were subject to drift. Of the 89 children on the CPNS, 11 were placed for longer than 18 months."
Responding to the report, Tusla said all five standards assessed were deemed to be substantially compliant and that improvements to the service were continuing. It also said a complex case forum had been established since the last inspection and that all 16 cases sampled for review by inspectors had a proactive and timely response from the social work department.
Kate Duggan, national director of Services & Integration, Tusla said: “We are continuing to build on much of the good work in our services in Cork and clearly this report when first brought to us last year has helped us to make significant improvements to our system. This is good for children and our staff who respond to them.
"We remain committed to improving the care and safeguarding of children in Cork and all other children in our care and where improvements are needed we will make them. A recent inspection report of foster care services in this area also highlighted areas where further work was needed, and we will improve on these as we have done here.”