Belfast Telegraph

Those responsible for Tusla failures must be held to account – Sinn Fein

Mary Lou McDonald called for action as she clashed with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Those responsible for “damning failures” within Ireland’s Child and Family Agency (Tusla) must be held accountable, Sinn Fein’s president has said.

Mary Lou McDonald called for action as she clashed with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar following the publication of a report into Tusla by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).

The HIQA report into how the agency manages allegations of child sexual abuse found it must take urgent action to address serious shortcomings.

During leaders’ question in the Dail on Tuesday, Mr Varadkar said Children and Youth Affairs Minister Katherine Zappone will produce an action plan to address the issues raised.

In order to change the culture in Tusla there first has to be accountability Mary Lou McDonald

But he did not directly address a question asked twice by Ms McDonald, that of whether anyone will be held accountable.

Ms McDonald told Mr Varadkar that “somebody must be held accountable for the damning failures at Tusla”.

“We must also see accountability for the litany of failures contained in today’s report. In order to change the culture in Tusla there first has to be accountability,” she said.

Mr Varadkar responded: “While it (the report) does raise difficulties around recruiting social workers and retaining social workers, the report in black and white acknowledges there is abundant evidence of considerable financial investment by government and by the agency in staff recruitment.

“The minister is directed to produce an action plan as recommended by HIQA, setting out the steps to implement the recommendations together with clear time lines to do exactly this.

“She is also going to appoint an independent expert quality assurance and oversight group to drive and monitor implementation so that we know it happens. The group will publish regular updates on its work.

“The minister has also advised that in line with the HIQA report she is prioritising a number of major initiatives to reform the way between Tusla and the Garda deal with the start of allegations of child sex abuse, and to support Tusla’s workforce needs by creating formal career path mechanisms for students and graduates.

“She will meet with the board of Tusla in the coming days.”

Mr Varadkar added: “It’s important to say that many of the actions needed to implement the report’s findings were indeed already under way at the time the investigation started.”

The Taoiseach said that Tusla is set to get an extra £14 million this year, bringing its total funding up to £753 million.

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