The Health Information and Quality Authority has said that significant risks were found across a range of areas during an inspection of Tusla's Dublin South Central foster care service and management and monitoring systems in Care Visions fostering services required "significant improvement".

HIQA has published two inspection reports on foster care services relating to the Dublin South Central foster care service operated by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, and the Care Visions non-statutory fostering service.

In relation to Dublin South Central foster care service, HIQA found that safeguarding measures such as the vetting of carers and other adults who lived with or had unsupervised access to children were not consistently undertaken.

There was no system in place to ensure all staff were vetted in line with Children First (2011) and Tusla's own recruitment policy.

Social workers also told inspectors that there was confusion and uncertainty among the team on how to manage welfare concerns and allegations.

Among the serious risks that were identified at this service were long delays in the commencement and completion of relative foster carer assessments and in achieving a decision from the foster care committee.

Inspectors also found that regular reviews of foster carers to assess their continuing capacity to provide high quality care to the children placed with them were not happening.

It was also found that the management of the service was crisis-led rather than delivered in a planned manner.

In relation to the Care Visions fostering service, management and monitoring systems required significant improvement to ensure safe services were provided.

The service told HIQA there had been no child protection concerns in the previous two years.

However, on review of files, inspectors found four concerns of a child protection nature detailed in significant event notifications.

In these cases, child protection reports were not made to the relevant social work department.

In a statement HIQA said all of the services have provided action plan responses to address the non-compliances identified on inspection and timelines for implementing these actions.
 

In response to the findings related to the Dublin South Central foster care service, Tusla's Chief Operations Officer Jim Gibson said "The report published today demonstrates evidence of good, child-centred practice and care in Dublin South Central, however, we acknowledge that there are areas which require improvement within the area's fostering services.
 
"Every child in foster care in Dublin South Central has an allocated social worker to ensure they are safe and well cared for in their placement.

"However, Tusla remains committed to improving the care and safeguarding of children in foster care in Dublin South Central and all children in our care.

"In conjunction with HIQA, we have created and begun to implement an action plan in Dublin South Central to address those areas identified as requiring improvement and have put in place a governance and oversight group to track progress on the action plan."

Meanwhile Care Visions Fostering Ireland said it fully accepts the findings of the HIQA report on its service.

In a statement, it said that since the HIQA inspection, it has put in place an action plan to "comprehensively address each of the requirements identified."
 
Managing Director at Care Visions Group Cathy Jamieson, said: "Care Visions, as an established and trusted fostering service, recognises its responsibility to uphold child safeguarding practices to the highest standards possible and regrets that it did not fully adhere to the national standards in a number of categories.
 
"In response, Care Visions has taken immediate steps to enhance the resources of the organisation and follow through on each of requirements as highlighted by HIQA in its report," Ms Jamieson added.