"Minister says HIQA inspection findings for HSE Dublin North West unacceptable"
Ms. Frances Fitzgerald T.D., Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, commented on the publication of reports on the findings from recent HIQA inspections of foster care services in HSE Dublin North West Area and Limerick. These inspection reports are part of a series being completed by HIQA into the operation by HSE areas of both child protection services and foster care services.
Foster care services in HSE Dublin North West Area have been inspected by HIQA on three occasions since September 2009, the most recent of which took place in October 2012.
Some progress is noted, particularly in the area of foster carer assessment, approval and training with all general foster carers approved and significant improvements in the area of relative foster carers. Some 96 per cent of children in foster care had been visited by a social worker within the preceding six months.
The Minister said that notwithstanding the improvements, significant issues remain which must be addressed urgently:
“Clearly in 2010 it was recognised that this area had a series of problems, this is HIQA’s third visit. It’s good that there are some improvements. The underperformance is, however, unacceptable. I will be urgently meeting the HSE and Gordon Jeyes, Chief Executive Designate of the Child and Family Support Agency in order to review the actions underway to address the critical issues identified.
In advance of this meeting I have requested that the HSE set up a high level oversight process to be led by the National Head of Quality Assurance to ensure speedy implementation of all HIQA recommendations in relation to Dublin North West. I understand it is intended that there will be independent expert participation in this oversight process. I intend that this oversight process will provide regular updates to both me and HIQA on the implementation of recommendations.”
Minister Fitzgerald said that she would require urgent resolution of any weaknesses by the HSE. Significant change is noted in the inspection report in management structures and systems in the Dublin North West area, including deployment of a dedicated service improvement team to address issues in the fostering service. The recruitment of additional social workers and team leaders had brought improvements to staffing levels and supervision with positive comment from staff regarding management and leadership.
Minister Fitzgerald said: “It is essential that those recent improvements which have been introduced are fully embedded. Remaining deficits are significant and must be addressed on an urgent basis. The ongoing nature of some of the problems identified is unacceptable and must be resolved.”
The Minister welcomed the HIQA report into foster care services in Limerick.
“The findings from the inspection of foster care services in Limerick were generally positive with standards in relation to rights, placements, and team qualifications being met in full. It is evidence of the standard of service that can be delivered while improvements are an ongoing process.”
It is noted that the Limerick report identified that both foster carers and children were very positive about their social workers. There was good evidence of social workers working directly with children and ensuring access to families. There were 83 children in foster care in the area, 80 of whom had an allocated social worker at the time of the inspection. Inspectors did find room for improvement – for example, the Foster Care Committee was not conducting regular reviews and children were not being given information about how to make a complaint.
The Minister went on to welcome the work of HIQA in providing such a robust investigative process as the basis for continual improvement in services for children.
“I have strongly supported the development of a robust and public system of external inspection for children and family services. Following the allocation of additional dedicated resources to HIQA for this purpose, the results of the increasing number of these inspections are becoming available. This inspection process provides transparency, affirmation of good practice on the part of staff and carers and, where weaknesses are identified, a basis for determined action.”
Finally, it is noted that the Dublin North West inspection found that sufficient foster carers had not been recruited within the area and this has provided difficulties in making placements and matching children with particular needs with the most suitable carers. Recruitment of foster carers is a priority more generally and it is intended to conduct a national recruitment campaign in the coming months. An important finding in this inspection report is that:
“Many foster carers were providing high quality care and children’s needs were being met. Foster carers were committed and child centred in their approach. They saw themselves as advocates on behalf of the child and availed of every opportunity to promote the child’s best interests to achieve better outcomes.” (Summary of Findings, p. 7)
The Minister said: “I wish to pay tribute to foster carers who are making a difference in children’s lives across this country and to appeal to potential foster carers who are considering taking on this role to contact the HSE to explore the invaluable contribution they can make.”