An audit of child safeguarding arrangements in the Catholic Church has recommended that the State invest resources in working with dioceses to address any shortcomings identified.

The Health Service Executive audit also suggested closer monitoring and regular reporting by dioceses.

However, the audit found that the practice of responding to immediate risk to children was "generally good".

It also found that "all dioceses are working toward the full implementation of the standards".

All dioceses were said to have made vast improvements in the task of reporting concerns to civil authorities but some still have significant work to do to improve their processes to meet the required standard consistently.

The audit, commissioned by the Minister for Children, assessed the policies and procedures in operation in each diocese as of 30 November 2011.

The audit did find some "notable Safeguarding deficiencies", however these were attributed to "poor data collection, poor standards of record keeping and inconsistent application of reporting procedures".

The report found that the inquiry into clerical sex abuse in the diocese of Ferns in October 2005 "did not immediately result in the diocese adopting its policies and procedures to keep up to date with current Church guidance as expected".

However, it said that Ferns had made notable improvements, particularly in 2011/2012.

Similarly, according to the audit, it took around 12 months following the publication of the report into clerical sex abuse in the archdiocese of Dublin before a comprehensive child protection policy and reporting procedure was fully implemented there.

The HSE said that all of the deficiencies in dioceses highlighted in the report are being addressed.

The audit process was voluntary and files submitted by dioceses were cross-referenced with HSE and garda records.

Some inconsistencies were discovered and the HSE said it was beyond the capacity of the audit to comprehensively state that all allegations made against priests or known to dioceses were included.

Nevertheless, the HSE said that it was able "to glean a reasonable overview" of the compliance of dioceses with their policies and procedures.

Dioceses that were praised for performing well in terms of their child protection procedures were Armagh, Waterford & Lismore, Clonfert, Elphin and Dublin.

Significant improvements were said to have been found in Kilmore and Killala.

The dioceses of Limerick and Kerry were said to be making steady progress and were encouraged to continue with their efforts.

The diocese of Kildare & Leighlin was found to have demonstrated "examples of good practice over a consistent period".