A Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) inspection of Tusla's foster care services in the Sligo/Leitrim/West Cavan area has found that during 2017 and 2018, seven children were not visited within the required time frames.

The watchdog's inspection also found that four allegations of child abuse were not assessed and investigated in a timely manner. 

At the time of last January's pre-announced inspection, 103 children were in foster care in the area. 26 were placed with relatives and the remaining 77 with general foster carers. One carer was supplied by a private provider.

The report published today states that inspectors met or spoke to ten children in care and four young adults in after care. All said they felt safe and were happy and well cared for in their foster placements.

However, the area was found to be in major non-compliance with statutory safeguarding and child protection rules.

During the two years prior to the inspection, seven children were not visited by their Tusla social workers within required time frames. In one case, there was no record of a statutory visit for over a year.

In the cases of three children placed last year, one was not visited, as required, within one month of the placement, and the other two did not receive their second visits within the required three months of the first visit.

Inspectors described the recording of statutory visits as "mixed", citing examples of good recording where social workers described how they had explained a care plan to a child. Examples of poor recording included the failure to upload six records to the children's electronic files and/or the failure of a social worker to finish case notes.

However, inspectors stated there was evidence that many children received frequent visits, sometimes as often as once a week when issues arose. 

Abuse allegations not always investigated 

The report also states that allegations of abuse were not always assessed and investigated by Tusla in the timely manner required by the State's Children First policy.

Inspectors reviewed the files of seven children who had made allegations of abuse. None related to foster carers.

In three cases, the correct process was followed and the allegations were assessed and investigated as required. However, in three other cases, the allegations were not assessed and investigated in line with the policy but according to an earlier set of Tusla's own policies and procedures. 

"This meant that there was no initial assessment of the children's allegations as required under Children First (2017) and the children's allegations were not assessed and investigated in a timely manner. Inspectors escalated these three cases to the interim area manager who provided satisfactory assurances that all allegations made by children in care would be managed in line with Children First (2017)," the report states. 

It added that inspectors also reviewed the file of a child who had made an allegation "a number of years previously" and found no evidence that it had been adequately assessed and investigated at the time.

The inspectors also escalated that case to Tusla's area manager who again provided satisfactory assurances regarding the management of the allegation.