Hiqa criticises three-month delays in organising of Tusla child protection conferences

Inspection criticises gaps in social work visits to children ‘at ongoing risk of significant harm’

A child protection conference is held in cases where children may be at risk of ongoing harm. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

A child protection conference is held in cases where children may be at risk of ongoing harm. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

 

The healthcare watchdog has criticised a three-month delay in organising a key child protection conference for a young infant at risk of significant harm, in the south east Dublin and Wicklow area.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) found there was a “variance” in the time it took Tusla, the State child and family agency, to convene child protection conferences in some cases.

A child protection conference is held in cases where children may be at risk of ongoing harm, and includes several agencies and professionals involved in the case, as well as the family, to draw up a plan for how to best protect the child.

A Hiqa inspection of Tusla services in the Dublin South East/Wicklow area, highlighted two cases where there were delays of three-and-a-half months in child protection conferences taking place.

One of the cases related to a young infant “identified at risk of significant harm,” the inspection report stated.

Tusla had put safety plans in place for both children, it noted.

The report was critical that children in both cases were waiting “long periods” for the inter-agency conferences to take place, despite being “at ongoing risk of significant harm”.

There was a resulting delay “in the formation of a robust inter-agency child protection safety plan for these children,” the report said.

The watchdog said it believed Tusla took too long to hold the case conferences, “given that there was significant child protection concerns for these children”.

The report said in general there was a good level of consultation with parents, as well as the child, during the child protection conference process.

Some child protection plans drawn up following the inter-agency meetings lacked details and required improvement, the report said.

Staff in the area were experienced and showed “good knowledge” of key legislation and standards, the report said.

The Dublin South East/Wicklow area was also “proactive” in promoting cooperation between other agencies and professionals, such as medical staff and gardaí, Hiqa said.

However, there were “gaps” in social work visits to some children Tusla had deemed at risk of harm or neglect. The monitoring of some children in these cases was “not consistent and required improvement,” the report said.

The Hiqa report, published on Tuesday, following a three-day inspection last August.