Gardaí to investigate care provider that ‘fabricated’ pre-employment staff checks, Dáil told

Simon Harris says investigation is now under way and that Tusla had put in place a new internal compliance unit

Revelations that a company which provided emergency accommodation for vulnerable children “fabricated” pre-employment screenings of staff have been referred to An Garda Síochána, the Dáil has been told.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said there was a Garda investigation under way while the Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman had spoken with the chief executive of the child and family agency, Tusla.

The Irish Times revealed on Wednesday that an internal Tusla report found that a company called Ideal Care Services, which the agency had increasingly relied upon to manage accommodation for children taken into State care in recent years, had “fabricated” pre-employment checks of staff, posing a major risk to young people in its care.

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”.

Speaking this afternoon, Mr Harris said it was a “very serious matter” and that Tusla had put in place a new internal compliance unit.

“The purpose of this unit is to enable it to examine evidence from providers of special emergency accommodation that their staff have Garda vetting and adequate qualifications. It’s so important that we have that compliance structure within Tusla and that they are very much on top of this matter,” he said.

“It was that compliance unit itself that detected an issue with a named company. Tusla immediately ceased using the named company, Tusla also notified other State bodies who may have been aware or using the company’s services.

“My understanding is that the matter has been referred to An Garda Síochána, that there is now a Garda investigation under way, and therefore I’m limited in terms of commenting further on the matter.”

The minister was responding to Sinn Féin’s deputy leader Pearse Doherty, who described the internal report as “shocking stuff” and that it was “absolutely scandalous what’s happening”.

“These revelations are really, really concerning,” said Mr Doherty. “These are vulnerable children that are placed in the care of the State.

“They’re put into private, unregulated [accommodation] because the State hasn’t got enough accommodation themselves.”

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.

In a statement, Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD called for an “urgent review” of special emergency arrangements used by Tusla to accommodate children in care, on foot of the revelations about Ideal Care.

Mr Tóibín said he had heard “horror stories” about the emergency accommodation. “I really fear that this scandal is but the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

He said voluntary organisations who ran residential care homes for Tusla had been “hung out to dry” and were being paid much less than private providers running SEAs.

Jennifer Whitmore, Social Democrats spokeswoman for children, said the findings of the Tusla report on the company were “hugely concerning”.

“Outsourcing accommodation for at-risk children to the private sector must end. It is not appropriate and exposes children to unacceptable risk,” she said.

Kathleen Funchion, Sinn Féin TD and chair of the Oireachtas children’s committee, said Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman needed to “immediately” examine what additional powers Tusla might require to improve oversight of the emergency arrangements.

“We should not be relying on the private sector. It is very worrying where we have situations where people are making profit from very vulnerable children at risk,” she told RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne.

Tusla paid Ideal Care €4.5 million in 2022, making it the third highest paid provider of special emergency arrangements that year. The company was paid a further €4.4 million last year, a Tusla spokeswoman stated.

The child and family agency 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.”

Marissa Ryan, chief executive of Epic, an organisation who advocates for children in care, said “urgent” action was required from the Government to tackle the crisis in the care system.

The State’s most vulnerable children were being left in “extremely precarious care arrangements”, she said. It was welcome that Tusla were no longer working with Ideal Care, she said.

“These frightening reports hold a magnifying glass to a range of challenges in the care system – insufficient placements, inadequate standards and regulation of some providers, poor staffing, and over-reliance on private companies, some of whom are clearly profiting from substandard care provision,” she said.

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Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times