Reports find shortcomings in child protection services
‘Significant delays’ in taking action to protect children at risk of harm or neglect
The inspectors found that, overall, children in the area received services which supported their safety
Inspectors assessing child protection services in Cork found there were “significant delays” in taking action to protect children who were at a medium to low risk of harm or neglect.
The finding is contained in a report on child protection and welfare services in the Cork North Lee local health area, published by the Health Information and Quality Authority. It shows that of 27 standards assessed, eight were met and 19 were met in part.
Services supported safety
The inspectors found that, overall, children in the area received services which supported their safety. Children were supported by professionally qualified, suitably-trained and knowledgeable staff who received a high level of regular supervision.
There was evidence that social work decisions and interventions were in the best interests of children and their lives improved as a result.
However, they also found that not all Children First guidelines were fully implemented. While “timely and effective” action was taken to protect children prioritised as at a high risk of harm or neglect, “there were significant delays for those children prioritised as at a medium to low risk of harm or neglect.
“The system in place did not facilitate timely child protection conferences and the formulation and review of comprehensive child protection plans,” the report states.
Inspectors found significant delays in reaching preliminary conclusions about the risk of harm and the need for further assessment of some children – a feature they concluded was due in large part to insufficient resources to meet the increasing demands of the service.
“Equally, the thresholds in place according to which referrals of child welfare concerns were accepted were not sufficiently clear to key referring agencies,” the report adds.
The inspectors observed good leadership and a committed workforce but noted a “lack of a quality assurance system” and unclear accountability in senior management.
In a separate report on child services in the Cavan/Monaghan area, the authority found that out of 27 standards assessed, three were met and 24 were met in part.
Inspectors found there were a “large number” of children referred whose needs had not been assessed and said it was possible they required services which they were not receiving.
While children were aware of their rights, the authority found, the service did not support them to make complaints.
The authority found that, in the main, families’ experiences of the service were positive. However, while there was a systematic analysis of complaints, “learning from complaints did not always improve practice”.