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Care home used by Tusla ‘fabricated’ pre-employment checks of staff, posing major risk to young people in its care

Company who ran emergency accommodation for children in State care ‘fabricated’ staff checks and Garda vetting

Tusla, the child and family agency, placed vulnerable children into unregulated emergency accommodation run by a company which “fabricated” pre-employment screenings of staff.

The accommodation was provided by a company called Ideal Care Services, which Tusla has increasingly relied upon to manage accommodation for children taken into State care in recent years. An internal Tusla report found it to have “fabricated” pre-employment checks of staff, posing a major risk to young people in its care.

The company is run by a pastor in an evangelical Christian church.

Over the last three years Tusla has had to increasingly rely on unregulated emergency accommodation, such as bed and breakfasts and rented properties, to house children in State care. These “special emergency arrangements” (SEAs), run by staff from private companies, have been criticised as inappropriate and unsuitable by NGOs, judges and politicians.


The rise in the use of SEAs has been in part due to lack of available beds in regulated group care homes run by Tusla, or private and voluntary providers, as well as a shortage of foster carers. More than 180 children and young people are currently accommodated in emergency arrangements.

One of the largest private providers of emergency accommodation over the last two years has been Ideal Care Services. It is owned by Jossy Akwuobi, (45), from Tyrrelstown, Dublin, who is a pastor with the Wisdom Christian Centre, an evangelical group based in west Dublin. Mr Akwuobi is listed as the operations director of Ideal Care, which is registered to an address in Mulhuddart, Dublin.

An internal Tusla report found Garda vetting files clearing staff to work for the company had been altered, while pre-employment checks of workers had been “fabricated”. The report, completed last July, said the standard of checks carried out on prospective care staff were found to be “grossly inadequate to safeguard vulnerable young people”.

The report said individuals involved in checking employee references had “fabricated” these checks, with personnel files containing “fictitious accounts of conversations with fictitious persons who were presented as referees” for staff.

Tusla inspectors said there was “clear evidence” that Garda vetting declarations “had been altered post-issue”. The report said that the employees in question had passed Garda vetting, but for some “unexplained” reason vetting files that had been altered were presented to inspectors.

Inspectors had “significant concern that, for reasons unknown, the content of the vetting files were being fabricated by the organisation or persons acting on its behalf”.

“It is certain that the ability of any staff member to act with such irresponsibility without detection, supervision or performance oversight amounts to a significant failure of governance such that the welfare of children was placed at an unacceptable and preventable risk,” it said.

In other cases staff were allowed to work with children without up-to-date Garda clearance as the company had accepted “historic vetting from a previous employment”, which the report said was “unlawful” under the Vetting Bureau Act of 2012.

Company management was “shocked” by the findings and stated “they had no knowledge of the vetting practices uncovered by inspection officers, and nor did they approve or condone them”, the report said.

Tusla paid Ideal Care €4.5 million in 2022, making it the third highest paid provider of special emergency arrangements that year, according to figures previously released to Aontú TD Peadar Tóibín. The company was paid a further €4.4 million last year, a Tusla spokeswoman stated.

In another inspection last June Tusla found a teenager in the single-unit care home had been sleeping on a mattress on the floor for some time as their bed had been broken. The company had “a lack of fundamental understanding” of how a care home should be run, with poor standards posing a “discernible risk to young people”. The agency said the governance structures “fell considerably short” of what was expected, and ordered the accommodation be shut.

When contacted for comment Mr Akwuobi said Ideal Care was no longer providing accommodation for children in care.

In response to criticism of the care provided by the company, he said: “I would not like to comment on that.”

He did not respond to queries about his role as a pastor. The company did not respond to specific questions about the findings made by Tusla inspectors.

A Tusla spokeswoman confirmed “no new SEA arrangements have been made with Ideal Care Services Ltd since the end of April 2023″.

The agency said it could not comment on specific concerns it had with individual providers. “However, where concerns are identified the agency takes immediate and swift action to address them directly with the provider,” it said.

“Tusla can confirm it has, in the past year, identified private providers who have not met our standards with respect to validated staff training, qualifications, references and vetting, and the agency subsequently ceased engaging with them as providers,” it said. Any company contracted to provide services for Tusla had to meet requirements around child safeguarding, vetting, references and qualifications of staff, it said.

Ideal Care has been providing services for Tusla since 2018, the same year it was set up. The company reported having €3.3 million in assets last year, which included €2.7 million in property, financial accounts show.

The total amount Tusla has spent placing children in care in SEAs has ballooned from hundreds of thousands of euro in 2021 to more than €70 million last year. The agency ran up a budget deficit of €36 million due to the high cost of the emergency accommodation alone in 2023.

One former Ideal Care staff member said there were serious issues around paperwork and record-keeping at the company. In one incident where a child had gone missing this led to difficulties providing gardaí tasked with searching for the child with accurate information.

The former employee, who spoke on condition their name was not published, said Ideal Care had “boomed very quickly”, and at its height was running 15 separate SEAs. “It was very chaotic working in there, there was no consistency,” the former employee said. The employee stated Mr Akwuobi “never really involved any religion in the lives of the young people”.

The former worker said they felt some properties used to accommodate children would not have passed inspections if they were regulated group care homes. “It wasn’t a good environment for a child, it was just kept enough for the social worker to come and say ‘okay they can stay here for a week’. It wasn’t a welcoming place,” the source said.

The former worker criticised the lack of initial oversight from Tusla, where often children’s placements would be repeatedly rolled over for “another week” until they had spent months in the property.

Inside Tusla the growing reliance on emergency accommodation and the standards of care provided by companies such as Ideal Care has caused considerable concern, according to one source who was previously involved in overseeing the arrangements for the agency.

Speaking generally the source said they had seen children housed in seriously substandard accommodation, run by inexperienced staff. “I was worried. It was getting worse and worse…That’s what concerned me.”

Separate to its inspection regime, Tusla’s internal audit team has been investigating special emergency arrangements. The agency refused to release copies of a large number of internal audits and monitoring visits of several providers in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from The Irish Times. It argued that release of the audits would be “detrimental to the public interest” as it could lead companies running SEAs to challenge Tusla’s oversight process, impairing its ability to keep children safe.

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Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times