Túsla - The Child and Family Agency last Monday advised Minister for Children Dr James Reilly of concerns over child welfare referrals in Laois and Offaly.
The type of referrals typically follow reports of children at risk of abuse or neglect.
Túsla told of “approximately 700 previously unidentified files” of cases of children identified as at risk, and 822 unacknowledged Garda referrals in the Laois Offaly area.
A draft report finds “a significant number of referrals to its social work service have not been responded to in accordance with established procedures”.
“The issue has come to light at local level and was notified recently to Tusla senior management,” Túsla said.
An urgent review of the 700 files is to be complete by this Friday May 8, to see if a social worker should be assigned.
The files referred by Gardaí are also being immediately reviewed, and the system of reviewing future referrals is to be improved Túsla say.
Two external, independent child care experts are assisting with the reviews.
“All necessary measures to deal comprehensively withthe situation have been, or are being, put in place,” Túsla said.
“My immediate priority is to ensure that no child is at risk of harm,” said Minister Reilly, who has requested a national audit of all cases awaiting allocation to a social worker.
CEO of Túsla is Gordon Jeyes said child safety is his priority.
“I am taking this matter very seriously and an investigation will be conducted, independent of the local management, by the Director of Quality Assurance. Existing management and reporting processes will also be closely scrutinised,” he said.
Tusla state that they give data on a monthly and quarterly basis regarding the management of referrals and unallocated cases.
The previous Minister for Children, and now Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan TD from Laois is “very concerned at apparent failures to respond adequately to these referrals”.
“Child protection is an issue that I have been passionately committed to throughout my career. My priority now is to ensure that any child at risk in Laois/Offaly as a result of these failures is identified without delay and appropriate actions are taken.
He welcomes Túsla’s action to bring in two external independent child experts.
“I am in close contact with Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, James Reilly, on these matters,” Minister Flanagan ended.
Laois Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley is “astounded”, and calls for independent oversight on investigations, “as the agencies cannot be trusted”.
“That any agency could have mislaid or ignored this number of files is bizarre. We need straight answers from both Túsla and its predecessor, the HSE, on how this happened. Who was responsible? Was it a lack of resources, incompetence or both? Were any children at serious risk? What of the needs of any children not yet 18?” he asked.