Saturday, July 13, 2024

Child Abuse Investigation: HIQA Report Identifies Major Compliance Failures in Tusla’s Services

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The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has published an inspection report on Tusla’s Child Abuse Substantiation Procedure (CASP) within the child protection and welfare service operated by the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) in the Dublin Mid Leinster region. The inspection focused on implementing Tusla’s Child Abuse Substantiation Procedure, which came into operation in June 2022. The inspection, conducted between 13 and 17 November 2023, revealed significant compliance issues.

Of the five standards assessed, the service was found to be noncompliant with four standards and substantially compliant with one standard. Although there were clearly defined governance arrangements and lines of responsibilities across the service, there was a delay in establishing some governance arrangements to provide assurances on implementing CASP at the regional level. Quality assurance systems were not developed, and management systems were not effective or timely in addressing the gaps in service delivery, such as gaps in case management and supervision.

Inspection Highlights Resource Challenges and Delays in Tusla’s Child Abuse Assessment Process

At the time of inspection, the CASP team was fully resourced, which helped reduce waiting lists for CASP assessments. However, substantial delays remained at all stages of the CASP process. These delays hindered the effective safeguarding of children and did not fully address findings from HIQA’s 2018 investigation into Tusla’s management of allegations of child sexual abuse against adults of concern. A review of cases found that Child Abuse Substantiation Procedure timelines were not consistently met, with significant delays in case progression. Limited records were kept on file outlining reasons for these delays, and no reviews of cases were conducted while they were unallocated.

Communication with children and families was not child-centered or aligned with Child Abuse Substantiation Procedure timelines. Delays ranged from three to 11 months between disclosures of abuse and Tusla’s initial contact to explain the process and provide relevant information to parents or guardians. Additionally, CASP information was not child-friendly and was only available in English on Tusla’s website. Tusla also failed to operate in line with its requirements under the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012, resulting in delays in sending notifications to the National Vetting Bureau.

Child Abuse

Delays in Referrals and Case Management Undermine Safeguarding Efforts in Tusla’s Child Protection Services

CASP social workers refer identified children at risk to the duty child protection team. However, inspectors found delays in these referrals, which are crucial for ensuring necessary protective actions are taken to safeguard children from harm.

In summary, improvements in staff supervision and case management are required to ensure better oversight of cases and adherence to Child Abuse Substantiation Procedure timelines. Strengthening the inputting of case information and timely management sign-off on the Tusla Case Management System is essential. More timely communication with children, families, and guardians is also necessary. Improved auditing and timely completion of notifications to the National Vetting Bureau are required to enhance overall service delivery.

 

Resource: Health Information and Quality Authority, June 17, 2024

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