Hiqa finds unexplained delays in reporting suspected neglect, abuse of children to gardaí

Tusla child protection services in Kerry and Cavan/Monaghan criticised by watchdog

The inspection reports into children protection and welfare services in Kerry and in Cavan/Monaghan, by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), also highlight delays in potentially at-risk children being assessed.

The inspection reports into children protection and welfare services in Kerry and in Cavan/Monaghan, by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), also highlight delays in potentially at-risk children being assessed.

 

Unexplained delays in reporting “suspected crimes of wilful neglect or physical or sexual abuse against children” to gardaí are highlighted in two reports on Tusla child protection services, published on Monday.

The inspection reports into children protection and welfare services in Kerry and in Cavan/Monaghan, by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), also highlight delays in potentially at-risk children being assessed once referred to Tusla.

An inspection in Cavan/Monaghan took place between November 11th and 14th, 2019 and found: “Although the service had made significant progress in relation to the eradication of the waitlist, children continued to experience delays in receiving a service.”

Hiqa found improvement was needed to ensure “consistent and timely notification to An Garda Síochána”.

Inspectors reviewed eight records where Garda notification was mandatory in cases of “suspected crimes of wilful neglect or physical or sexual abuse against children.

“There were unexplained delays in sending four notifications to An Garda Síochána by between 13 days and over two months.

“The fifth case had not been notified to gardaí at the time of inspection and this was brought to the attention of the manager.”

Waiting times for initial assessment has fallen since January 2019. However 15 children, who had been referred to Tusla up to seven months earlier, had not been allocated a social worker at the start of the inspection. This was down to five children by the end.

“This meant there continued to be delays for some children in receiving a service.”

The area was praised however for being “fully staffed”; staff “had the right mix of skills and experience to meet the needs of children”; its “child-centred work in most cases” and for being “innovative in supporting families from different backgrounds”.

In Kerry, an inspection was conducted between November 25th and 28th, 2019, and found “improvements were required in ensuring that An Garda Síochána were informed in a timely manner of suspected abuse”.

Of the three referrals reviewed where a Garda notification was required just one had been made “promptly”.

Another was delayed by four months while the third was still outstanding since January 2019.

Kerry also had potentially at-risk children waiting for assessment. Of a sample of 28 referrals just three (11 per cent) were assessed within one week.

“Others were delayed from periods of two weeks to six months to progress to an initial assessment commencing.”

There were “significant delays” in assessments being completed - they should complete within 40 days - meaning “some children did not have their circumstances fully assessed in a timely manner”. Some took nine months to complete.

Inspectors found that social workers in Kerry were “child-centred in their identification and analysis of children’s needs”.