At-risk children left on waiting list for months, says HIQA – – Our News, Your Views

At-risk children left on waiting list for months, says HIQA

An inspection of child protection and social care services by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) found that children with allegations of abuse, inappropriate contact and sexual assault had been kept on waiting lists for months, reports RTE.

A HIQA inspection of Tusla’s Child Protection and Welfare Services in April found that the Children and Families Agency had not taken steps to identify children who were not cared for and protected.

HIQA found “a chronic shortfall” of human resources to meet the demand, including gaps in the monitoring and oversight of waiting list cases and the implementation of security plans.

Many children and families in the service areas of Dublin South, West Kildare and West Wicklow have been waiting a long time for initial inquiries and initial assessments.

The report describes what the inspectors found when reviewing the files during the visit.

Among them was a four-year-old case who complained of inappropriate contact with an older child. Five months later, they remain on the waiting list.

Given the age of the child, HIQA said their ability to calculate incidences months later may not be reliable, reports RTE.

In another case, a teenage girl who had complained of sexual assault 14 months before the visit was still on the waiting list.

Eight months before the file was reviewed by HIQA, another teenage girl also complained of sexual abuse.

She remained on the waiting list without a referral for services.

Children under the age of eight were referred because they were found alone at home. The case was on the waiting list for four months. Attempts to contact the family have failed.

This incident was brought to the attention of staff during the inspection. However, it has not been possible to determine whether the children still live at the indicated address, reports RTE.

Children’s Minister Roderick O’Gorman described the report as alarming and said there was a critical problem with the recruitment and retention of social workers.

HIQA inspections focus on examining Child Protection and Social Welfare applications pending an initial investigation and/or initial assessment.

HIQA noted that national offices in Tusla monitor operations using national indicators, but inspectors questioned “the effectiveness of this monitoring in improving a service” and said the accuracy of the statistics was questionable.

Unassigned cases increased from 29% of open cases at the end of Q1 2022 to 43% of open cases at the end of Q3 2022.

In the second and third quarters of 2022, the region had the highest number of pending cases among all 17 Tusla regions.

It also consistently had the highest or second highest referral rate in the country during that period.

“These figures clearly demonstrate the pressure the area was under and the demands on their service. This did not, however, appear to result in changes in terms of internal monitoring from Tusla’s national office,” according to the report, reports RTE.

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