Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth | To ask the Minister for Children; Equality; Disability; Integration and Youth the extent to which the attention of he and his Department has been drawn to children who may be at risk for one reason or another whether in institutions, fosterage or elsewhere
To ask the Minister for Children; Equality; Disability; Integration and Youth the extent to which the attention of he and his Department has been drawn to children who may be at risk for one reason or another whether in institutions, fosterage or elsewhere; if the necessary support services are being made available to ensure that children do not feel isolated or alone; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Tusla is the statutory body with responsibility for child protection and welfare services. If a child appears to be at risk of harm or neglect, the concerns should be reported to Tusla. Anyone can report a concern about a child to Tusla, and information on how to do so is available on the Tusla website. If a child is at immediate risk or in danger, An Garda Síochána (AGS) should be alerted without delay. Tusla acts urgently on notification of an immediate risk to a child. Children who are in a situation of immediate risk may initially be dealt with by AGS or by Tusla, but in the main both agencies work together in such cases.
Tusla recognise that the best way to improve outcomes for children is to intervene at an early stage to try to resolve problems and prevent harm. A way this can be done is by working with parents and communities to support children at the earliest possible stage. Consequently, Tusla, and its partner agencies, have undertaken a comprehensive suite of early intervention and preventative services. The aim of Tusla’s Prevention Partnership & Family Support (PPFS) Service is to prevent risks to children and young people arising or escalating through early intervention and family support.
The Children First Act 2015 places a number of statutory obligations on specific groups of professionals and on particular organisations providing services to children. Additionally the Children’s First Guidance 2017 includes information on the statutory obligations for those individuals and organisations under the Act. It also sets out the best practice procedures that should be in place for all organisations providing services to children.
With regard to the safety of children in the care of the State, Tusla is committed to promoting safe practice in all areas of alternative care including residential care and foster care. Safe practice is defined as the implementation of appropriate safeguarding measures necessary for working with young people in a manner that acknowledges their need to live in as normal an environment as possible. Regulations govern the placement of children in care. These provide for the welfare of the child, the care practices, care records, accommodation and safety precautions. The Regulations also provide that the allocated social worker oversees the implementation of the child’s care plan, visits the child and consults with family members, foster carers and other people involved with the child to ensure that his or her needs are being met and that the care being provided is optimal.
HIQA carries out announced and unannounced inspections of children’s services including Child Protection and Welfare Services, Foster Care Services, statutory Children’s Residential Centres and Special Care units. HIQA carry out these inspections against Regulations and Standards, by reviewing files on site, interviews and questionnaires with staff and service users and their families. Following an inspection, HIQA share their initial judgements and draft report with the service/area. HIQA then works with the management of the centre or area in order to agree an Action Plan to address any identified deficits. Final reports are published, and are submitted to the Department with the area or service’s Action Plans and are monitored as necessary by DCEDIY officials.
It has been shown that the best environment for most children in care to thrive and reach their potential is best achieved within a foster care placement. Such placements also offer the child a loving and stable environment in which to live. Ireland can be proud of the fact that over 90% of all children in care, reside in foster care, a figure that compares favourably with our European neighbours. In some instances a child’s needs are best met in Residential Care. Residential centres are typically domestic style homes where between 2 to 6 young people are being cared for. Young people in residential centres have an allocated a Key Worker, and their friends and family are free to visit in line with their care plan. Where possible these young people attend local schools and are supported to take part in local sporting and community activities.
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