The Health Information and Quality Authority has reported significant improvements in Tusla's child protection and welfare services.
However, it says further improvements are required to achieve full compliance with the national standards for the Protection and Welfare of Children.
Inspections of 12 of the Child and Family Agency's services were conducted between October 2019 and April 2021. Due to Covid-related restrictions they were paused from mid-March 2020 until August 2020.
Overall, HIQA says the services made progress in achieving compliance with standards.
However, the inspection report says improvements are needed around adherence by services to Tusla's timelines in commencing and completing preliminary enquiry and initial assessment.
It says timely notification of suspected abuse to An Garda Síochána is required and a consistency in approach to safety plans.
Two service areas (Kerry and Waterford/Wexford) had significant delays in notifications to gardaí of up to ten months.
The Cavan/Monaghan area had delays of up to two months while Sligo/Leitrim/West Cavan, Donegal and Dublin North City had delays of up to four weeks.
HIQA notes that as the inspection programme progressed, Tusla implemented changes to improve this process.
For example, in the latter part of 2020, a prompt was included in the revised intake and initial assessment templates on the information system to remind staff to notify the gardaí where required.
The report also says that consistency in the monitoring and oversight of cases awaiting allocation to a social worker is needed and a timely recording and uploading of children's records onto the National Child Care Information System.
Two service areas, Galway/Roscommon and Dublin North City, had not identified all risks to the service, such as the non-adherence to the timelines set out in Tusla’s standard business process and in the risk associated with staff not having full information on a child due to inadequate recording on National Child Care Information System (NCCIS).
In the Cavan/Monaghan service area, the risk register was not being used in line with its purpose.
All risks known to the management team were not reflected in the risk register nor were they managed in line with Tusla’s national risk management policy.
In the Waterford/Wexford service area, the process for addressing risks that required a regional or national response was not effective and contingency planning for long-term risks required improvement.
Inspections found that the main organisational risks identified by Tusla services were staffing vacancies and the impact on Tusla’s capacity to provide services and manage referrals efficiently.
They found non-adherence to the timelines set out in Tusla’s standard business process - the impact of which was that some children and families did not receive a timely service.
The report concludes that in well-governed services, "managers do not lose sight of the fact that they hold primary responsibility for the quality of their service and for demonstrating compliance with the relevant requirements, they are the first line of defence".
Therefore, it says that it is the responsibility of each service area to implement ongoing quality improvements in their service under the governance of the Child and Family Agency Tusla's national office.