The Ombudsman for Children has expressed concerns on the standards of care in children´s residential homes and has called for HIQA to take over monitoring.
Niall Muldoon was speaking on RTE´s “Morning Ireland” radio program when he commented that the standards of care in children´s residential homes – particularly voluntarily and privately run homes – may not be being met because of “inconsistencies and discrepancies” in monitoring standards.
It was explained on the broadcast that there are two agencies responsible for monitoring the standards of care in children´s residential homes – the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), which monitors state run homes, and TUSLA (the HSE´s Child and Family Service) which monitors voluntarily and privately run homes.
Mr Muldoon´s primary concerns were that the ten monitoring standards of care in children´s residential homes – including management, staffing levels, children´s rights and environment – had not been met in a number of locations, and the reason for this was that staff shortages had led to delays in the assessment of children´s residential homes.
An investigation conducted by the Ombudsman between January 2012 and August 2013 found that it often took up to fourteen months after the registration of a children´s residential home for an inspection to be carried out. The statutory period within which an inspection is supposed to be conducted is six months.
Mr Muldoon said that the delay in monitoring the standards of care in children´s residential homes was leaving the children in a “vulnerable situation”. He added that his office has engaged with TUSLA to create a “solid action plan” that would amalgamate the monitoring of standards of care in children´s residential homes under one national quality control mechanism run by HIQA.
The 2009 Ryan Report – which recommended that all children´s residential homes were inspected by HIQA – was also mentioned on the broadcast. “We know why the Ryan report was set up” the Ombudsman commented. “We wanted to make sure that children in our care have been looked after to the highest level of standard.” Mr Muldoon added he hoped negotiations with HIQA would result in “independence and proper standards being clearly implemented” in the inspection of care homes.
A spokesperson from TUSLA said the organisation supports the transfer of inspections of voluntarily and privately run children’s residential homes to HIQA, but warned this could take up to two years.