Shortage of social workers affecting foster care in Laois-Offaly, says report
Staff ‘committed, warm and loving to the children in their care’
Managers and social workers “were found to be dedicated, committed and motivated, with an in-depth knowledge of the needs of children in foster care”, the report said. But “staff had received limited ongoing training”. Photograph: Frank Miller
A generally positive Hiqa foster care report on the HSE Laois/Offaly Local Health Area (LHA) Fostering Service has found that while “the quality of social work support for children in the LHA was good” it was “ undermined by a significant number of vacancies and a high turnover of social workers”.
In two areas the report found that “standards were not met”. There was “no formal process in place for the review of foster carers” and “the LHA did not have effective systems in place to identify children in need of special foster care placements”. All other standards were “met in part”.
Overall, it said, “18 per cent of children in foster care did not have an allocated social worker and many children experienced frequent changes of social workers. This impacted negatively on children’s relationships with professionals and their ability to access a trusted professional who they could confide in.”
The processes in place to monitor unallocated cases were also found by inspectors to be “weak”. Managers and social workers “were found to be dedicated, committed and motivated, with an in-depth knowledge of the needs of children in foster care”. But “staff had received limited ongoing training and there were eight staff without Garda Síochána vetting on file. A number of other staff had not been re-vetted for a prolonged period.”
Foster carers also “were found to be committed, warm and loving to the children in their care” but they “had not received regular ongoing training nor had training needs assessments been undertaken to identify specific knowledge deficits in caring for individual children.”
Systems and processes in place to safeguard and protect children “were not consistently implemented in line with the Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children (2011)” and “all carers had not attended training” on those guidelines.
At the time of the inspection “there were 210 children living in foster care in the LHA, being cared for in 90 general foster care households and 49 relative care households. Of those 122 (85 per cent) of children in general foster care had an allocated social worker”.