By Jamie Smyth
July 26, 2011 / Irish Times
SOME CHILDREN in foster care in Dublin North Central continue to be at risk despite efforts by the Health Service Executive to correct serious malpractice, the State’s health watchdog has said.
The Health Information and Quality Authority said yesterday some of the 329 children in the area were placed with unassessed and unapproved foster carers. In some instances children were placed with carers who had been the subject of allegations of ill-treatment and had not been completely cleared by the executive.
Social work departments had classified these allegations as “inconclusive” due to the length of time it took the executive to investigate the complaints. There was also evidence of a number of allegations of a similar nature made about some foster carers over a protracted period of time by different and unrelated children, said the authority in a new inspection report published yesterday.
The report is based on inspections undertaken by the authority in March 2011 in Dublin North Central, which covers Ballymun, Glasnevin, Drumcondra, Santry, the north inner city and Fairview. It ordered the inspections to assess what progress has been made since it published a damning report on the poor standard of foster care services in July 2010.
The report said there has been some positive changes over the past year, which includes an increase in social work posts, a reduction in unallocated cases and improved local systems of gathering and maintaining information and care records. But the authority said delays in the assessment and approval of the majority of foster carers continue, and the Children First guidelines – the national code setting out how to respond to child protection concerns – are not fully implemented.
Some 45 of the 329 children in foster care in the Dublin North Central area do not have an allocated social worker and 80 foster carers do not have an allocated link social worker to provide support. In July 2010 the authority recommended the executive undertake 67 actions to address the serious deficiencies in the foster care service in the area. The report concludes seven of these recommendations had been met in full, 44 were partly met and 16 were not met by the executive.
The authority also conducted a follow up inspection of the Dublin north area, which covers Raheny, Sutton, Howth, Portmarnock, Rush, Skerries to Balbriggan, Donaghmede, Coolock, Darndale, Swords, Ballyboughal, Oldtown, Garristown and the Naul. This found much better child protection practices and a culture of formal, high quality and frequent supervision of social workers.
All 120 children placed in foster care within the Dublin north area had an allocated social worker and all foster carers had an assigned link social worker.
The authority said social workers in the area had “concerns” about reforms proposed by the executive to work practices.
Dublin north is the national pilot area for a new service delivery model being introduced by the executive. The authority said it would monitor the implementation of the new system.