Tusla - Child and Family Agency

Tusla - Child and Family Agency


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Tusla - Child and Family Agency

Strategic Initiatives

Presentation for the Joint Committee on Health and Children

25th September 2014

Contents Page No

Opening Statement by Gordon Jeyes, Chief Executive / 3
Appendix I Summary Budget / 10
Appendix II Principal Service Activity / 11
Appendix III Progress Report on Milestone Targets / 13
Appendix IV Overview of Monthly National Performance Activity / 33
Appendix V Summary of Recent HIQA Oversight / 34
Appendix VI Junior Certificate Results and Special Care / 37

Tusla - Child and Family Agency: Strategic Initiatives

Presentation for the Joint Committee on Health and Children

25th September 2014

Opening Statement by Gordon Jeyes, Chief Executive


I welcome this opportunity to update the Health and Children Committee on the considerable progress achieved by Tusla - Child and Family Agency in its first nine months. I am joined by Fred McBride, Chief Operations Officer, Pat Smyth, Director of Finance and Eibhlin Byrne, Executive Manager. Also shadowing me here today is Stephen Elington of TAG - The Aftercare Group, a group of young people who advise Tusla on aftercare. I shall keep my presentation relatively brief and have provided supporting documentation to assist members with their understanding of current Tusla performance and issues arising.


Tusla was born on 1stJanuary 2014. It is the first agency solely dedicated to the welfare, protection and nurture of Ireland’s children. This has greatly enhanced the transparency of taxpayer investment in services for vulnerable children and those in need of care and protection. A copy of our summary budget is attached as Appendix Ialong with details of our principal service activity (see Appendix II).

Please also find attached a summary of our Business Plan 2014 -progress to date, targets for agreed priority areas (Appendix III )and an overview of Monthly National Performance Activity as at July 2014 (Appendix IV).

It is essential that Tusla is an agency which is responsive and inclusive. The activity in the initial Business Plan has a number of initiatives to ensure the establishment of reliable routines to deliver and report on key elements of service. In addition, work has continued on the Reform Programme building on initiatives within Family Resource Centres, Educational Welfare Services and establishing a streamlined Service Delivery Framework.

Tusla has been created in the demanding circumstances of increased requests for services, budget restrictions and recruitment constraint. In the face of austerity, it would be easy to be complacent, blaming any inaction on limited resources. Yet, this has not been the case and I am pleased that, in the face of austerity, services are improving, are more accountable and are more consistent across the country.

Lessons from the past have been learnt. Ours is an increasingly accountable, consistent and transparent service.


InAppendixV is a summaryof recent HIQA oversight. There is increasing evidence of a service which is led and delivered with clarity of purpose and determination to do the best for Ireland’s children. Throughout, it is important to remember that children are not at risk because they are in the care of the State. Children are placed in the care of the State because they are at risk.

Failure to share information has often been quoted as a weakness when children are let down by the child protection system. A consistent approach has now been adopted to all children placed on the Child Protection Notification System. Information will be shared, as from the final quarter of 2014, with An Garda Síochána and medical colleagues. Emergency ‘place of safety’ arrangements are working well and will be augmented by a duty out-of-hours system. Through newsletters and the website information is shared and practice improved.

Other specific improvements in 2014 include:

  • The establishment of a single line of accountability for Domestic Sexual and Gender Based Violence (DSGBV) services.The development of a ‘roadmap’ for DSGBV services to ensure the planning of effective and accessible services and to assure that developments are aligned to Tusla strategic priorities and in line with the Cosc-led national DSGBV strategy.
  • Family support and Family Resource Centres are now a fully integrated aspect of the service delivery framework which is a key aspect of the overall reform programme. This has established new synergies between the family resource centres and local services. The sector will also be the subject of a quality review by the end of 2014 to inform the Agency of the future and enhanced role Family Resource Centres can play in the overall strategy for the Child & Family Agency.
  • Information is a key requirement in child protection services both in respect to management of complex cases and the appropriate sharing of information to ensure children are kept safe from harm. The development of the National Child Care Information System is a key priority for the Child & Family Agency and is at an advanced stage of User Acceptance Testing.
  • Educational Welfare

Educational Welfare intervention is now a constituent part of the Service Delivery Framework which underpins the reform programme and a model of service delivery in this regard has been piloted and is currently undergoing evaluation. Further work is planned in 2014 to improve school attendance, participation and retention targets and align these functions to other agency functions eg. Meitheal and LAP. School attendance Guidelines have been developed to underpin this work and guidelines on the assessment of education in places other than recognised schools have also been developed.


There is a clear and straight forward line management structure within Tusla. National policy is discussed, best practice identified and consistency increased. Staff are clear about their responsibilities, aware of their duties and are contributing to a Performance Management System comprising HR, Finance and Service Delivery.

To enhance accountability further, there is a need to review funding distribution and to develop local partnerships within Children Services Committees. The joint protocol for services responsible for primary care, health and wellbeing, mental health and services for children affected by disability needs to be strengthened.

As part of the aspiration to be a responsive service there is a need to learn more from complaints and to respond to them fully within agreed timeframes.

Mechanisms needs to be developed in order that the services Tusla shares with the HSE are accountable and recognise Tusla as an independent agencywith separate legal status.


The Service Delivery Framework is being rolled out across the country. Many areas have developed multidisciplinary teams around the child and early intervention has been enhanced through effective partnership working. Most teams now have a dedicated Front Door,duty and intake service with response times greatly reduced and continuity of service enhanced. Children First arrangements have been strengthened through the Child Welfare and Protection Handbook while additional guidance relating to Section 3 cases have been issued recently. An Alternative Care Handbook is being finalised and strong aftercare arrangements consolidated. Early Years Inspection Services now run on a national basis with an enhanced workforce guaranteeing full inspection at least every three years.

Within our Early Years Inspectorate a system of registration is being implemented to replace the previous practice of notification and, in partnership with others, the emphasis is on child development as well as ensuring a safe environment.

For Adoption Services, within limited resources, progress is being made on the backlog of information and tracing and record management through a national Adoption Service.

There has been considerable progress in Special Care and, as befits a multidisciplinary agency, education is valued for all our children in care as evidenced by excellent Junior Certificate results in our establishments. See Appendix VI.

Education is at the core of the Agency activity as successful engagement in education can greatly enhance life chance.

  • 97.8% of 6 to 16 year old children in care are in full time education (end Q 4 2013) an increase from 96% in 2013
  • 89.5 % of 17 year old children in care are in full time education (end Q 4 2013) an increase from 81% in 2012
  • 60% of young adults in after care are in full time third level education
  • 674 young people over 18 years continue living with their carers (Q4 2013)

Further development is required to finalise national aftercare standards, foster care support and commissioning arrangements.


In the face of a dynamic and well planned reform agenda there are four particular challenges that inhibit the more effective development of a full range of services for Ireland’s children.

Sustainable budget

Current budget pressures which prevent staffing services reaching full complement inhibits service effectiveness despite strong arrangements to prioritise the most important and the most urgent. The vast majority of concerns raised by HIQA and Ombudsman relate directly to resource and / or recruitment deficits.

Cost effective support in partnership with HSE

Tusla would support the development of an internal market in order that services relating to finance, HR, Estates, ICT and other support services are provided to frontline customers on a cost effective basis and that these services are responsive to a different range of customers such asTusla, Community Health Trusts, Hospital Trusts and others. Each service should have a shareholding in support services and a monetary value should be given to each share holding with a view to enhancing the customer experience.

Court Reform

There can be little doubt that the current time and money spent on legal matters is neither sustainable nor in children’s best interests. Tusla has embarked on a comprehensive and ongoing process of reform.

Significant effort and attention has been given to increasing the credibility of Tusla staff when providing evidence to assist and enable effective and timely judicial decisions. Training has been increased and new court reporting forms introduced.

There is regular oversight of legal budgets with a reduction in those authorised to engage legal services on behalf of Tusla.

Further reforms required include the requirement to move towards greater use of mediation services, reform of the Guardian ad Litem system and a further review of the use of legal services by the Agency.

The reform of the Guardian ad Litem system with appropriate regulation and registration is urgently required. The practice of representation of GALs at both solicitor and counsel level raises questions regarding the use of legal representation in court by expert witnesses.

There is a need for the development of mediation services and processes. Increasingly adversarial proceedings at District Court level can result in significant delays as points of law are considered. Repeat short term care orders are not conducive to providing stability for children.

Multiagency Working

Services for children in all jurisdictions are all too often organised within lines of professional demarcation. This is not in the best interests of children. Children’s education, health and welfare needs are intensely inter-related. Consequently effective multiagency work is crucial and requires scrutiny, support and insistence.

The common theme in all of the serious case reviews of the last ten years has been a lack of joined up strategy and integrated implementation. There is a new joint protocol between key HSE services particularly primary care, services for children affected by disability and mental health and Tusla. This protocol needs to be strengthened and great care taken to ensure that parallel reforms remain complementary. If reforms are not synchronised there is a danger of reinforcing significant service gaps. In such territory tragedy can occur.


The pace of reform has been inhibited by the dictates of austerity. The fragility of the Agency is a consequence of establishment at a time of severe restrictions on the public purchase. Despite all pressures, there is enthusiasm, commitment and initiative. Staff deserve great credit for what has been achieved.

The issue now is to complete the task, support the commitment and ensure reform is consolidated and sustained.

Appendix I - Summary Budget

Appendix II - Principal Service Activity

The Child and Family Agency was established on 1st January 2014 upon the enactment of the Child and Family Agency Act, 2013 and is responsible for improving wellbeing and outcomes for children. It represents the most comprehensive reform of services for the development, welfare and protection of children and the support of families ever undertaken in Ireland. It is an ambitious move which brings together some 4,000 staffs who were previously employed within Children and Family Services of the Health Service Executive, the National Educational Welfare Board and the Family Support Agency.

The Child and Family Agency has responsibility for the following range of services:

  • Child Welfare and Protection Services, including family support services
  • Family Resource Centres and associated national programmes
  • Early years (pre-school) Inspection Services
  • Educational Welfare responsibilities including School Completion Programme and Home School Community Liaison
  • Domestic, sexual and gender based violence services
  • Services related to the psychological welfare of children

The Agency operates under the Child and Family Agency Act 2013. Children are at the heart of the legislation and families are seen as the foundation of a strong healthy community where children can flourish. Partnership and co-operation in the delivery of seamless services to children and families are central to the Act.

The specific functions of the Agency, as set out in the legislation, may be summarised as follows:

  • Support and promote the development, welfare and protection of children, including the provision of care and protection for children in circumstances where their parents have not been able to, or are unlikely to, provide the care that a child needs
  • Support and encourage the effective functioning of families, to include the provision of preventative family support services aimed at promoting the welfare of children; care and protection for victims of domestic, sexual or gender based violence, whether in the context of the family or otherwise; and services relating to the psychological welfare of children and their families.
  • Ensure that every child in the State attends school or otherwise receives an education and provide educational welfare services to support and monitor children’s attendance, participation and retention in education
  • In making decisions in relation to these functions have regard to the best interests of the child in all matters and in performing its functions in respect of an individual child under the Child Care Act, 1991 or the Adoption Act, 2010, regard the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration
  • Maintain and develop support services, including in local communities
  • Undertake or commission research relating to its functions
  • Facilitate and promote enhanced inter agency co-operation to ensure that services for children are co-ordinated and provide an integrated response to the needs of children and their families
  • Collaborate with any person that the Agency considers appropriate to the discharge of its functions
  • Provide information or advice, or make proposals, to the Minister on matters relating to its functions
  • Demonstrate high standards of performance, transparency and accountability
  • Use the resources available to it in the most beneficial, effective and efficient manner
  • Ensuring robust and transparent inspection arrangements for pre-school services
  • National oversight of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence services

For further information see

Appendix III - Progress Report on Milestone Targets for Agreed Priority Areas


The Business Plan was prepared in accordance with the requirements of Section 46 of the Child and Family Agency Act 2013; and in response to the Letter of Determination from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to the Chair of the Board, dated December 20th 2013. The Board of the Agency is responsible for the oversight of the development of corporate strategy, annual budgets and business plans.

The Business Plan 2014 identified sixteen activity areas with priority outputs as follows:

  • Accountability
  • Quality Assurance
  • Partnership
  • Workforce Development
  • Family Support
  • Early Childhood Care & Education
  • Service Delivery Framework
  • Emergency Out of Hours Service
  • Child Care Information System
  • Children First
  • Alternative Care
  • Adoption Services
  • Educational Welfare
  • Sexual and Gender Based Violence
  • Psychology Services
  • CommunitySector

An update with respect to each priority output is set out in the following sections.

Outputs / Timeline
  1. Scheme of delegation established and
reviewed / Q1
Scheme of delegation with signed delegations cascaded to area level. / Complete
  1. Governance code and structure in place
/ Q3
Board subgroup on Governance
Governance Framework / in place
On target
  1. Risk register established and operational
/ Q4
  • Agency establishment risk register developed and maintained
  • Working group with State Claims Agency developed
  • Standard Operating Procedures for incident management revised and at final stage of consultation
/ On target
  1. Budget development plan published
/ Q4
  • Draft Model Developed
  • Draft model tested
  • Working model agreed

  1. Re-issue and review child care reform programme
/ Q4
Review process in place with a view to prioritising key areas for reform / On target
  1. Audited risk arrangements in place accountable to the agency board and its sub-committees
/ Q3
Standard operating procedures for risk alerts in place
Full corporate risk register under development – proxy system in place / On target
Outputs / Timeline
  1. Performance Framework established
/ Q4
  • A performance monitoring system is in place.
/ In place
  1. Reporting cycle agreed and monitoring
requirements met / Q3
  • A cycle of performance monitoring with respect to all activities within the Agency has been agreed.
/ In place
  1. A system of performance audits and
quality reviews in place / Commenced
  • Methodology to conduct performance audits and quality reviews has been developed
  • One review completed, one in progress
/ On Target
Outputs / Timeline
1. Review of Memorandum of Understanding with HSE / Q4
  • A Memorandum of Understanding between the Child & Family Agency and the Health Service Executive has been invoked.
  • Currently under review
/ Ahead of schedule
2. Review of Joint Protocol with HSE / Q4
  • A joint protocol to specify a pathway and associated responsibilities for children and families whose needs cross between health service divisions and the Child & Family Agency.
  • Currently under review
/ On target
3. Development of research capacity and commissioned research activity with CES / Q2
  • Two research projects in progress with CES.
  • A research strategy is currently being developed
/ On target
4. Agency participation/facilitation and, where
appropriate, leadership of the development of
Children’s Services Committees / Q4
  • Progress in this area includes the following:
- Representatives from Tusla on all Children’s Services Committees
- Enhancement of Interagency Co-operation
- Work commenced by each Committee to develop area profiles identifying key needs
- The Chief Operating Officer a member of the National Steering Committee / On target
Outputs / Timeline
1. An agreed workforce development
Strategy / Q4
  • Formation of working group to develop strategy
/ On target
2. Clear partnership arrangements with the
relevant professional bodies / Q3
  • Liaison mechanism with CORU in place
  • Links formed with Educational Institutes to review relevant academic courses
/ On target
3. An agreed graduate social work scheme
with recruitment commencing / Q4
  • Ongoing discussions with the Union to advance this
/ On target
4. Agreed maternity cover in defined
circumstance / Q2
  • Process to identify maternity vacancies in place
  • Work underpinned by Employment Legislation.
/ On target
5. Review of clerical and administrative
Staff / Q3
  • Review commenced
/ Ongoing
6. Implementation of lead recommendations
following the review of clerical and
administrative staff / Q4
Awaiting results of outcome 5. / On target
Outputs / Timeline
1. Quality review of implementation of family
support processes in each Area / Q4
  • A quality review methodology has been devised and is out for consultation.
/ On target
2. Integration of Family Resource Centres
within the Service Delivery Framework / Q4
  • Re-organise management responsibilities for FRC programme within Family Support Services for 4 regions
/ Completed
Outputs / Timeline
  1. Registration system operational
/ Q3
  • Awaiting introduction of regulations.
  • Recruitment and appointment of 4 Principal inspectors and additional Inspectors interviews scheduled for October
/ Q4
  1. Standards-based inspections in place
/ Q3
As above / On target
  1. ICT system in place to support the
registration process / Q2
  • Steady progress with the design of the collecting fees and initial registration form and on target.
  • Funding to be sourced and secured to expand on an operational ICT system and equipment required to enable implement-tation of Registration and Standard based Inspection
/ On target
  1. Additional inspectors appointed
/ Q4
  • See 1 above
/ On target
  1. Publication of inspection reports available
online in a timely manner / Q3
  • Inspection reports are being published currently on the Pobal website
/ On taget
Outputs / Timeline
1. Intervention thresholds introduced and reviewed / Q1
  • Intervention thresholds complete and circulated to all Area Managers for implementation
/ Complete
2. Standardised intake and
assessment processes introduced and
reviewed / Q2
  • Assessment framework
  • implementation
/ Complete
In progress
3. System for diversion to community and voluntary sector in place / Q3
  • National training strategy for prevention, partnership and family support in place
  • Appointment of senior manager for prevention, partnership and family support in each of 17 areas and co-ordinators for child and family support networks where capacity exists
  • Mapping of Child & Family Support networks carried out, identifying key local partners from other statutory services and the community/voluntary sector who can partner with the Child & Family Agency to deliver on this change model
/ Complete
4. National Child Protection Notification System in place / Q2
  • The guidance for CPNS and Child Protection Case Conferencing has been issued and training is complete and now in process of full implementation
  • Manual system in place
  • Computerised system under development

Priority 8: Emergency Out of Hours Service