A Health Information and Quality Authority report into foster care services in the midlands has found shortcomings in safeguarding standards placed children at serious risk.

It found that there were inadequate measures in place to protect all children in foster care across the midlands region.

Inspectors examined services across counties Laois, Offaly, Westmeath and Longford and found that in a number of cases children in care were not visited regularly enough by a social worker.

In high-priority cases, of children in care, safeguarding visits had not taken place. 

The report found that when safeguarding visits did take place, they were "not always of good quality".

Not all children's placements were monitored by an allocated social worker and 8% of children did not have an allocated social worker.

The report found that this resulted in a number of children not having contact with birth families for "many months". In some cases, children had requested visits.

Inspectors identified occasions when children were not listened to and a small number of incidents where the wishes of children around contact with their family were not respected.

HIQA identified some instances where children were treated in a disrespectful way, a small number of children were place in overcrowded houses, which meant unrelated children had to share bedrooms and sometimes beds. 

The HIQA report also found that almost half of all children did not have an up-to-date written care plan.

The inspectors also found that children's ethnicity was not always identified in care plans, and children from the Travelling community were not provided with culturally appropriate placements.

Some children with a disability had good access to appropriate services but others did not.

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Inspectors found that carers were not always given information about the child's particular needs and some carers reported that they did not get enough support when caring for children with disabilities.

Because of the limited number of foster carers 41 children were placed outside the local area at the time of inspection.

Some children were placed in arrangements, "often in an unplanned way", with appropriate safeguarding measures not taken.

HIQA noted that the vast majority of children had warm relationships with the foster families and continued contact with their birth families.

In terms of meeting required standards in 26 different criteria, none of the inspections met the standards that are laid down by the National Standards for Foster Care.

Twenty 'required improvement' while six were identified as having 'significant risks'.

At the time of this inspection there were 357 children in foster care. Of these 101 were with relatives and the remaining 256 children were placed with general foster carers.

As part of the inspection reviews were carried out on 111 children's case files; 82 foster carer's files.

Ten households were visited, 33 foster carers interviewed, and meetings held with 27 children.