Zappone seeks early report on Midlands foster-care issues

Minister ‘very disappointed’ with lack of progress after Hiqa finds deficiencies

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone: “I have instructed my department officials to have an early report prepared and to update me regularly on progress to ensure that the deficiencies in the Midlands area are addressed expeditiously.” File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone: “I have instructed my department officials to have an early report prepared and to update me regularly on progress to ensure that the deficiencies in the Midlands area are addressed expeditiously.” File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, has demanded an early report from her officials on what is being done about the serious shortcomings in foster-care services in the Midlands.

Following a damning report, Ms Zappone said she was “very disappointed that more progress” had not be found by Hiqa inspectors.

The report published yesterday, following an announced inspection in May, is the second on care services in the region in three months.

In July, Hiqa reported high-priority child protection cases in the region not allocated social workers, had been known about “for years”.

This report of inspections in January and March, found one social work team predominantly made up of agency staff with two years or less experience. Inspectors also found a fifth of 53 child protection cases sampled by them had to be escalated to the duty intake principal social worker for review, because of concerns.

Ms Zappone said the report made clear the need for investment in “our most critical of social services . . . The recruitment of social workers into the fostering service is key to resolving these issues.

“There is a lot to do following this report. That being said, I welcome the evidence that there is good practice. There were positive comments reported from children about their care and experiences. The social workers and management clearly do the best that they can with their limited resources and want to do more.

“I have instructed my department officials to have an early report prepared and to update me regularly on progress to ensure that the deficiencies in the Midlands area are addressed expeditiously.”

‘Grave concern’

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children expressed “grave concern” at the findings, saying children were in danger because standards were not being met.

“This is simply not good enough,” said chief executive, Grainia Long. She also hit out at Government funding of Tusla, pointing to a €60 million shortfall in the last budget compared with what the agency had asked for.

Sinn Féin spokesman on children, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, said it appeared services in the region had actually deteriorated since July.

“There appears to be a reoccurring theme at management level and this must be addressed immediately. The report highlights the issue of under-staffing which boils down to resources available.”

“The Minister has allocated an increase of €36.9 million in funding to Tusla in last week’s budget, which is welcome. I do fear the amount required is far more substantial when you see the issues that are emerging from this report.”

Labour party spokeswoman on children said: “These are among some of the most vulnerable children in the country and we need to ensure the proper resources and appropriate staffing levels are in place to properly take care of them.