HSE did not report cases of suspected child abuse or neglect
Hiqa report finds serious failings in child protection services in Carlow/Kilkenny
Geoffrey Shannon, the Government’s special rapporteur on child protection, said the findings highlighted the need for strong laws to ensure abuse or neglect concerns are handled in a uniform manner. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill
Inspectors have found evidence that vulnerable children are being placed at risk by the failure of social services to notify gardaí of suspected abuse and neglect concerns.
The findings are contained in a report by the Health Information and Quality Authority, which highlighted serious failings in child protection services in the Carlow/Kilkenny area. It is the first time that frontline social services have been subject to independent inspections.
The scale of the failures highlighted in this first report is likely to cause worry among policymakers and professionals about standards across the rest of the State’s child and family services.
Further reports into how other parts of the child protection service are performing are due to be published over the coming weeks.
In the HSE’s child and family services in Carlow/ Kilkenny, inspectors found:
Delays sharing information were potentially hindering Garda investigations
Inaccurate and outdated records of children at risk
Poor management of waiting lists for vulnerable children
Social work teams not following Children First procedures – the State’s official policy on handling abuse or neglect concerns
Staff performance praised
The findings were more positive when it came to performance of staff who, inspectors found, were providing a safe service. The standard of practice and quality of assess ments was good, but inspectors said the system they were working in was not robust and was leading to poor outcomes for some children.
Overall, none of the 27 national standards against which services were inspected were fully met. Nine were not met at all.
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said she was not satisfied with the findings, but was satisfied to see the area opened up to independent inspection for the first time.
“Assessing where we are at is a critical stage in ensuring we can achieve the improvements we want in children’s services,” she said. “ There is considerable room for improvement in the planning and reviewing of services in the area,” she said.
In a statement, the HSE’s child and family services – headed by Gordon Jeyes, who is due to head the Child and Family Support Agency – said it was tackling all of the issues highlighted in the report.
Failure to implement Children First guidelines, published more than a decade ago, are likely to cause particular anxiety.
Under new laws due to be enacted soon, it will become an offence in some instances not to follow these procedures.
Geoffrey Shannon, the Government’s special rapporteur on child protection, said the findings highlighted the need for strong laws to ensure abuse or neglect concerns are handled in a uniform manner.
“Key recommendations of the Ryan report were that that Children First guidelines should be uniformly and consistently implemented throughout the State,” he said. “In this report, we see this still isn’t the case. This underpins the need for legislation in this area, which the Minister is bringing forward.”
Jennifer Gargan, head of Epic, a group that supports young people in care, said the findings reflect those of many previous reports.
“There are very worrying issues,” he said. “Yet again, there are lessons from the past that haven ’t been learned and recommendations which haven’t been put into practice.”
The first announced inspections began in November last year and more reports are due in the coming weeks.