Ombudsman Peter Tyndall has today (18 July) published the results of his investigation into Tusla's procedures for handling complaints about its services. The investigation was carried out after the Ombudsman received complaints about Tusla, including how Tusla investigates allegations of child abuse against adults.
The Ombudsman's investigation found cases where:
- there were long delays by Tusla in dealing with allegations of abuse
- the rights of those accused of abuse were breached
- Tusla failed to follow its own procedures when keeping social work records
- Tusla social workers lacked empathy
- confidential communications were sent to an incorrect address
Speaking at the publication of his investigation report, 'Taking Stock', Ombudsman Peter Tyndall said:
"My investigation has found that in some cases there have been serious failings in how Tusla carries out its role. However, Tusla has accepted the findings in my report. It has agreed to implement the recommendations which are aimed at improving Tusla's procedures. Tusla has already started to implement some recommendations and I will closely monitor how they are being implemented."
In 2014 the Ombudsman expressed concern about how some cases were being handled by social workers, particularly cases involving historic allegations of abuse. His Office worked with the then newly established Tusla to try to ensure that clear policies and procedures were in place to deal with such cases. However, since then, the Ombudsman has received a variety of complaints which called into question whether his concerns had been properly addressed. This is what prompted the Ombudsman to initiate a systemic investigation. The investigation examined complaints the Ombudsman received as well as complaint files held by Tusla.
Among the case studies mentioned in the Ombudsman's report are:
- A case where it took five years to conclude that allegations of abuse against a grandfather were unfounded (Example 1, page 15)
- A case where a professional who worked with children received a letter from Tusla asking to meet with him. The initial letter mentioned the Gardai and did not specify the nature of the allegation from the 'anonymous' person, or that the man could bring a support person with him to a meeting. The letter caused the man considerable distress and he had fears over his Garda vetting status. Three months later Tusla deemed the allegation to be unfounded. (Example 3, page 22)
- A case where a statement provided by a woman who made allegations of abuse was misfiled (page 29). The allegations were examined fifteen months later and only after the woman contacted Tusla. In the same case a note of the woman's allegations which was to be sent to her was sent to the wrong address and a subsequent letter was also sent to a wrong address. (Example 7, page 33)
- A case where an adult did not receive written notice of the allegations of abuse made against him before being interviewed by Tusla - contrary to guidelines set out in the 1997 'Barr judgment' (Example 4, page 23)
- A case where a foster carer who was the subject of a complaint did not receive details of the social worker's report on her or other material which was to be relied on by a foster care review committee. The foster carer was unable to fully respond to the complaint and her foster care status was adversely affected. (Example 9, page 34)
'Taking Stock - an investigation by the Ombudsman into complaint handling in the Child and Family Agency (Tusla)' is available on the Ombudsman's website.
Copies of the report are also available on request from the Office of the Ombudsman.