Roscommon childcare report improving services for local children – Naughten

In Families by Denis Naughten

Local TD Denis Naughten has welcomed a briefing presented to him by Children’s Minister, Frances Fitzgerald TD, on the steps being taken as a result of the recommendations contained in the report on the Roscommon childcare case.

“On foot of the report an audit of childcare cases identified that in one in four neglect cases in County Roscommon, children were deemed at risk. As a result of this audit further measures were put in place to support the children in the seven families involved,” explained Denis Naughten.

“The original report also identified a shortage of social workers and eight additional social work posts have been allocated to the child care services in Roscommon within the last two years. In addition, new reporting and recording systems have also been put in place for Public Health Nurses where there are child protection concerns.”

Denis Naughten also pointed out: “A new pilot project has been undertaken in South Roscommon looking at improving communications between social workers and other disciplines and improving the effectiveness of the Home Management Services. This project is underway and is scheduled for review in May of this year.

“It is important for children not just in County Roscommon but throughout the country that the recommendations of the report into the Roscommon childcare case are given the priority they deserve,” concluded Denis Naughten.

Joint Committee on Health and Children 16 February 2012
Questions to the Minister for Children & Youth Affairs

Question 13 (Deputy Denis Naughten)

The progress to date on implementing the recommendations in the report on the Roscommon Child Care Case

Original update provided in response to PQ from Deputy Naughten in November 2011

The Report into the Roscommon case was published by the HSE on 27th October 2010. Since its publication the HSE has given assurances that practice in assessing and responding to child welfare and protection concerns is being applied to the necessary standard across all regions. The HSE has already stated that it is committed to learning from this and other reports to ensure that services are strengthened to help protect children to the greatest extent possible.

In relation to the specific family case the management of the case was transferred to Mayo HSE in January 2011 and the monitoring and oversight role is undertaken by the HSE Regional Lead for Childcare. Child in Care Reviews on all the children have been undertaken and chaired by the Regional Lead.

The local Management Team in Roscommon is leading out on implementation of recommendations and monitoring and supporting the process. An external consultant has provided training across disciplines on working with neglect, gender issues attachment and supervision.

Nationally workshops were convened to share the learning from the Roscommon Inquiry with specific focus on the Recommendations of that Enquiry. The Workshops had a multidisciplinary focus and a Practice Guidance Document, ‘Back to Basics’ as disseminated which documented key messages with accompanying guidance.

One of the Recommendations from the Inquiry was for a National Audit of Neglect Cases to be completed, commencing with Roscommon. An external consultant has completed a Review of Practice and Audit of the Management of Cases of Neglect in Roscommon, and has highlighted both strengths and challenges. It is envisaged that an executive summary will be published in the near future. Positive outcomes included:
o Well established multidisciplinary arrangements and organisational structures which facilitated teamwork and communication
o Initial assessments routinely completed
o An emphasis on direct work with children and young persons and commitment to listening to children and ensuring their voices were heard

The Review found that in a majority of the cases, staff and managers displayed a commitment to early assessment of need and provided a range of supports to assist children and families, resulting in improved parenting capacity and better outcomes for children. The Review concluded that the challenges involved are similar throughout Ireland and the United Kingdom including the need for more authoritative social work, senior managers reviewing and auditing files, national supervision policy implementation and establishing thresholds for legal intervention in cases.

A Review of Progress following Audit was undertaken after three months and again this had many positive outcomes.
Achievements included:
o The recommendations of the Inquiry Report and the Review of Practice and Management of Neglect are being implemented via an Interdisciplinary Child Care Steering group.
o A monthly child care meeting chaired by the General Manager considers specific developments within the Child Care Service, including budgetary and resourcing issues, waiting lists and individual cases which require to be notified to senior management.
o Family Support Services have been streamlined to include a single point of entry and is being realigned with new social work boundaries.

Revised management structures have been put in place in Child Care Services in Roscommon and 5 additional social work posts were allocated to Roscommon in 2010. A further 3 additional posts have been allocated in Roscommon.

Further update provided in December 2011

The issue of training spans several of the report’s recommendations. A detailed training programme continues to be rolled out in a number of areas including neglect, courtroom skills and report writing. Training on Attachment Theory will be rolled out in 2012. In relation to management development, training was rolled out for first time managers and senior managers during the summer and autumn of 2011. Supervision training has been rolled out for Supervisors at the levels of Child Care Manager, Principal Social Worker, Team Leader and Social Care Leader.

The revised Children First National Guidance was published in July 2011. Briefing sessions in relation to the Guidance continue throughout the HSE. The HSE’s associated Child Protection and Welfare Practice Handbook has also been distributed amongst all relevant staff.

On the issue of targeted family support, a dedicated Family Support Service is in place in North Roscommon and it is planned to expand the service through a redistribution of funding from other sources. This will be achieved by employing another youth worker and increasing the capacity of youth workers currently providing a service.

The report recommended that the nature of public health nursing records in respect of children where there are child protection concerns should be reviewed to ensure their adequacy. In this context the public health nursing service has developed a Child Health Record, and it is currently in the process of developing a Child Protection Record.

The report recommended that there should be full involvement of the HSE Speech and Language Department in the development of support and treatment services for children and families where this is an issue for the child’s well-being. A Communications Working Group has been established, comprising representatives from social work and allied disciplines such as public health nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech and language therapy. The objective of this is to ensure a more seamless flow of information between the various disciplines.

The report recommended that a nationally appropriate quality assurance system be established, that considers the practice issues as well as the technical aspects of each case. A Principal Social Worker has commenced auditing of files with support provided at regional level.

Further update provided in February 2012

The Report recommendation that a review of the effectiveness of the Home Management Services in respect of working with families where chronic neglect is an identified issue has been completed and a pilot project has been undertaken in South Roscommon looking at improving communications between Social Workers and other disciplines. This project is underway and is scheduled for review in May, 2012.

The Sexual Abuse Treatment Unit established in Galway is due to be evaluated shortly by the HSE.

In conclusion, the HSE continues to address the recommendations of the Report into the Roscommon childcare case as a priority.