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Executive Summary

This investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman looks at how the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) handles complaints about the services it provides and at the issues, which form the subjects of these complaints. In particular, it looks at how Tusla has dealt with complaints about the management of retrospective allegations of child abuse, at how current allegations against adults are handled and at interactions between Tusla and foster carers. These represent the main subject areas of complaint about Tusla dealt with by the Ombudsman.

To put matters in context, Tusla received over 47,000 referrals to its Child Protection and Welfare Service in 2016. Some 20,127 (43%) of those referrals required an initial assessment. During the same period Tusla received 1,172 formal complaints, 54 of which ultimately reached the Ombudsman. In 2016, nine of those complaints were either upheld or partially upheld. While the Ombudsman acknowledges that the volume of social work related complaints made to his Office tends to be low, nevertheless many lessons can be learned from individual complaints.

This investigation looked at how nine particularly challenging complaints made to the Ombudsman between 2012 - 2016, which identified elements of poor administration, were handled. As part of the investigation, 30 complaint files internal to Tusla were also reviewed. In addition, the Ombudsman hosted a Workshop which was attended by 30 complaints officers working at a senior level across Tusla services, to explain his role and to listen to what they had to say about the complaints process.

Please note that the names of the complainants have been changed to protect their identities.

The key findings that emerged from this investigation are set out along with the recommendations designed to address the failings.


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Annual Report 2016

The 2016 Annual Report details the increasing numbers of complaints, and highlights the most significant cases of the past year.