Serious deficits identified in Donegal’s child welfare services

The Health Information and Quality Authority inspection took place in May.
The Health Information and Quality Authority inspection took place in May.

Children in Donegal were put at risk by delayed risk assessments of alleged and convicted offenders, an inspection into child welfare services in the county has found.

The Health Information and Quality Authority has published a report which highlights serious deficits in child welfare services in the county.

HIQA carried out an unannounced inspection of the Child and Family Agency, which has one office in Buncrana, two in Letterkenny and one in Donegal Town, over one week in May.

One of their findings highlighted how delayed risk assessments of alleged and convicted offenders in the community who may put children at risk meant that “immediate risks” to them may not have been identified.

It said low staffing levels affected several aspects of the service, particularly its capacity to allocate social workers to cases or to carry out an assessment of children’s needs.

A number of children were on waiting lists for the child protection service and although “every effort” was made to manage risk in these cases, there were inconsistencies. 15 children on the Child Protection Notification System had no allocated social worker.

Inspectors also found there were waiting lists for children and families in accessing some child protection and welfare systems and there were a significant rate of referrals in relation to children previously known to the service.

Additionally, other findings highlighted how the prioritisation of cases for a service was not always effective; there were un-allocated cases where high levels of need and risk were identified and community based interventions provided were time limited. This “resulted in continued or escalated levels of need and risk.”

The inspection found that while children in Donegal “received a child protection and welfare service which supported and protected them,” the agency complied with just five out of the 27 standards assessed, had a minor non-compliances with 10 standards, while there were moderate non-compliances with 12 standards. The area had no major non-compliances with any of the standards.

In response, the provider drew up an action plan to address the non-compliances and address all deficits in the report. Some measures have already been introduced and more are to follow.

The full report can be seen on the HIQA website.