'Mixed levels of compliance' with national foster care standards, report finds

By Noel Baker
Senior Reporter and Social Affairs Correspondent

The country's foster care services are still fragmented, with inconsistent practice, ineffective use of resources and duplication of work, according to a new report by health watchdog HIQA today.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) published an overview report on inspections in the Child and Family Agency’s (Tusla’s) foster care services for 2017 to 2018 as well as four regional follow-up inspections of foster care services.

The report looks at all 17 service area inspections conducted over the past two years, as well as follow-up inspections and desktop reviews carried out in all four regions last year.

It said there was "mixed levels of compliance with the National Standards for Foster Care across all 17 service areas".

In areas where there had been the highest level of non-compliance with required standards, many areas had subsequently made significant improvements to address the shortcomings identified in the initial inspections.

This included the establishment of regional forums to address the common issues found within the fostering service throughout each region.

But HIQA also found "a lack of consistent practices and shared learning within and between regions", where individual initiatives that were effective in one area were not being transferred to other areas, which it called "a missed opportunity".

It also said that Tusla's resources were not effectively used and duplication of work was taking place.

"For example, many areas had convened individual working groups to look at aspects of practice, such as the processes in place for placing children in an emergency," it said.

However, inspectors found that some of these working groups were operating in isolation. As a consequence, several staffing groups across several areas were independently looking at the same issues.

Tusla has stressed the difficulties it has faced in the recruitment and retention of frontline staff, but HIQA said while it accepted this, "it is essential that Tusla review operational practices and optimise staffing resources to prevent duplication of effort and inconsistency in practice".

The overview report and four regional reports are available on www.hiqa.ie.

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