New inspections for child services
A screen grab of the Health Information and Quality Authority website.
All of the State’s child protection services will be subject to unannounced independent inspections within the next three years, it has emerged.
Until recently, the Health Information and Quality Authority was only able to inspect residential and foster care services for children.
But the authority’s remit has since expanded to include inspection and monitoring of the Health Service Executive’s child and family services. The first inspection report of a regional child protection service is due to be published over the coming weeks.
The move comes at a time of fresh concern over child protection. A report last week revealed that some children in foster care were being left with foster parents, even after serious allegations had been made against them. The authority now has the power to seek assurances from the HSE that they are safeguarding children and young people by mitigating serious risks.
It will also be able to conduct unannounced monitoring assessment visits, and will advise the HSE and Minister for Children of any concerns.
Phelim Quinn, the authority’s director of regulation, said the move was a significant milestone in putting safer and more reliable child protection and welfare systems in place for vulnerable and at-risk children.
“All children have a right to be safe and to have access to appropriate services and support to enable their growth and development,” he said. “The needs of children have not been a priority in how the child protection and welfare service responds to concerns on the welfare of vulnerable children.”
In order to drive improvements in the quality and safety of child protection and welfare services, the authority says it will:
− Assess if the HSE’s child and family services have all the elements in place to safeguard children and young people
− Establish if failure to have these elements in place poses a serious risk to the children receiving these services
− Identify and report on areas of good practice which protect children and promote their welfare, whilst respecting and upholding their rights
− Seek assurances from the HSE that they are safeguarding children through the mitigation of serious risks
− Inform the public and promote confidence through the publication of the Authority’s findings
Mr Quinn said it was clear that the needs of vulnerable children have not always been responded to in an “appropriate and timely way”, and the scale and seriousness of documented child abuse and neglect in Ireland has highlighted this in several reports.
“Those providing services need to learn from the past and take steps to ensure that all services work effectively and safely to deliver better care and support for vulnerable children,” he added.