Tuesday, 17 December 2013
Child Care Services Inspections
78. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if it is planned that residential child care centres run by private operators in which children in the care of the State are cared for will come under the inspection remit of the Health Information and Quality Authority. [53791/13]
The Minister told me that up to August 2013 there were 115 children in the care of the State who were placed in private residential child care centres, at a cost of up to €8,000 a week for some placements in HSE south. On a key point, given that there is a significant lack of public knowledge about the number of children who are placed in private residential care, why, as she stated specifically, does HIQA not have a role in invigilating those places and keeping them under review?
The Health Act 2007 established the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, which incorporated the social services inspectorate. The office of the chief inspector in HIQA has the responsibility of inspecting and registering designated centres. Designated centres cover a number of residential-type centres for both adults and children. Residential care centres for older persons and centres for children and adults with a disability are registered and inspected under the provisions of the Health Act 2007.
Currently HIQA inspects HSE children's residential services and all foster care services, while children's residential centres run by the private and voluntary sectors are inspected by the HSE. All inspections are undertaken against national standards developed by the Department of Health prior to HIQA's establishment. To bring the Deputy up to date, my Department is currently developing two sets of regulations to allow for the registration of special care units - registration and care and welfare regulations - in accordance with the Health Act 2007 and the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2011. HIQA is currently developing national standards for special care units, with commencement expected early in the new year.
In July 2012, national standards for child protection developed by HIQA were approved, and since then we have started the inspection of child protection services and six inspection reports have been published. From 1 November, HIQA began the registration and inspection of residential and respite services for children and adults with disabilities.
The next priority in regulating children's services will be the commencement of the Health Act 2007 to allow HIQA to register and inspect all residential centres for children in care. The commencement of that provision, which is what Deputy Broughan is referring to, will be kept under review based upon assessment of the organisational capacity of HIQA to take on further responsibilities and the Government's priorities in expanding HIQA's remit having regard to areas of health and social services not currently inspected.
Last year I took the decision that HIQA would inspect child protection teams for the first time. It was extremely important that we did so. It meant there had to be quite a bit of extra capacity in HIQA to ensure it was in a position to do that. It has done it, and we got good information from those inspections. Deputy Broughan correctly points out that those other services are still inspected by HSE but, as I said, it is a priority to begin to move towards a situation in which HIQA is in a position to inspect those services as well.
On 12 March last I asked the Minister to provide a list of private residential child care centres, including the names of providers and owners and numbers of the staff and their levels of training and qualification, and she told me I would get that information by 21 November last. We are still waiting for it. I wonder whether that information could be transmitted.
Recent media reports alleged that a teenager from outside Ireland went missing after being placed by a private agency with a foster family in Ireland and was found sleeping rough on the streets. This report raises many issues of concern about these private agencies. It is something to which I would hope the Minister will give urgent attention.
The question of standards is critical. Whether the child is in a private residential service being paid for by the HSE or in a foster family being paid for by the HSE, the question of standards applies equally to both. I am not familiar with the particular circumstances Deputy Broughan outlines but I will certainly ensure that he gets the information for which he has been asking.