Sex offender living with child in care among Tusla backlog

One sex offender living with son (14) in the care of the State, internal emails show

Tusla  was thrown into controversy in April 2015 after it was revealed there was a backlog of hundreds of unallocated case files in its Portlaoise office. Photograph: Alan Betson

Tusla was thrown into controversy in April 2015 after it was revealed there was a backlog of hundreds of unallocated case files in its Portlaoise office. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Several convicted sex offenders, whose cases were among a large backlog of Tusla files in the Laois-Offaly area, had direct contact with children post-release, internal emails from the State agency show.

In one case, a 14-year-old boy was found to be living with his father, a convicted sex offender, and as such required “immediate and urgent” intervention, according to correspondence between Tusla social work staff.

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, was thrown into controversy in April 2015 after it was revealed there was a backlog of hundreds of unallocated case files in its Portlaoise office.

The findings of a highly-critical independent review into the issue, reported by The Irish Times last week, said Tusla’s inability to deal with the backlog, which had been flagged by local staff as early as 2013, was “an organisational failure”.

The review, conducted by industrial relations expert Janet Hughes, was completed in May 2016.

Unallocated cases

Among the backlog were six unallocated cases that related to convicted sex offenders, one of which had been referred to Tusla as far back as 1995.

In late May 2015, a senior social worker drew up an internal update on the current status of the six cases.

In one of the cases, a boy (14) who was subject to a Tusla care order, was found to be living with his sex-offender father, according to internal emails. The case required “immediate and urgent social-worker involvement,” staff said, adding the father had refused to meet social workers.

Another senior Tusla official advised “a child in our care cannot be living with a sex offender”, and the case needed to be followed up immediately, emails show.

In another case, a sex offender was reported as not having had “any new contact with children” post-release.

However, following a review of his file, it transpired a social worker’s original risk assessment of the offender in 2012 was “incomplete”, Tusla staff said. “He has care of his own child, girl age unknown, but a minor,” the correspondence said.

Another convicted offender who had ongoing contact with his grandchildren was refusing to meet social workers and needed to be seen, the emails said.

When a sex offender is released from prison, Tusla “works with families where there is a child-protection concern,” a spokeswoman for the agency said, adding “each case is treated on an individual basis”.

Problems

Regarding the 2015 case backlog, the spokeswoman said a “service improvement plan was put in place in the midlands area”, which addressed the identified problems.

Separately, Tusla has admitted it incorrectly told Department of Children officials last year that the independent review into the backlog was under legal review, and so could not be published.

Tusla provided the same incorrect information to then-TD Clare Daly, in response to a parliamentary question.

Last October, Liam Irwin, chair of Tusla’s special inquiries committee, wrote to Minister for Children Katherine Zappone informing her “it unfortunately transpires that the information provided was not correct” and the independent report had never been under legal review.

In response, Ms Zappone said his letter caused her “a great deal of concern” and that providing incorrect information to her department, or a TD, was “at variance with acceptable conduct for an agency or department of the State”.

Mr Irwin apologised to Ms Zappone and Ms Daly, and clarified that Tusla senior management had decided against making the independent review public.