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THE HEALTH INFORMATION and Quality Authority (HIQA) has published an inspection report into the standard of foster care services in the Cork region which found several instances of concern.
The authority is conducting inspections across all 17 foster care service areas in Ireland operated by child and family agency Tusla.
Eight standards regarding such care were used to assess the Cork foster care service. Of those, the service was found to be compliant with just two.
Cork was ruled to be non-compliant with six of the standards, five of which were marked as being ‘majorly non-compliant’.
“Due to the number of significant issues that arose from this inspection, Hiqa was not assured that the management oversight and monitoring of the service was sufficient,” the authority said this morning in a statement.
Tusla this afternoon welcomed the inspection report, and stressed that a “comprehensive action plan” has been put in place to deal with its findings.
“Hiqa inspection reports are an important measurement tool and allow us to ensure that Tusla services operate at the highest possible standard,” said the agency’s service director Patricia Finlay.
Foster carers… are the backbone of our child protection system. Fostering by its nature is complex and requires social workers and managers to consider and negotiate views from a wide range of stakeholders.
There are areas highlighted in the report which require improvement and a comprehensive action plan has been developed to ensure these improvements are made in a timely way, many of these improvements are already underway.
The inspection found that a ‘significant’ number of foster carers in the area (43%) had not had a review in over three years. This was an issue that had been noted in a previous Hiqa inspection in 2013.
Among the areas of immediate concern noted during the inspection were:
- Inadequate investigations being carried out following allegations against foster carers
- The lack of a system to ensure no further children were placed with carers with whom there was ongoing concern
- Adults living in foster care households without Garda vetting
- Inadequate support or supervision of foster carers
- The number of children in foster homes exceeding standards
- Poor record keeping and governance
The inspection did note some areas of good practice, including comprehensive assessments of carers, and the plan to roll out a clear process for approval of foster carers in 2017.
The Cork service area has responded to the inspection by providing the action plan mentioned above to address the non-compliances identified.