By Áine Kenny
NUI Galway researcher have found that Tusla’s Prevention, Early Intervention and Family Support services have significantly improved over the past four years.
The research comprised of six reports: Meitheal and Child and Family Support Networks, Children’s Participation, Parenting Support and Parental Participation, Commissioning, Public Awareness and Systems Change.
Meitheal, Tusla’s programme for providing early help for families, is making a positive difference to peoples’ lives and was commended in the research. When it is fully implemented, this system may help reduce the numbers entering the child protection system.
Meitheal also has a particular focus on mothers. Maternal wellbeing was the most significant predictor of family outcomes, suggesting that supporting mothers is key to supporting families, and Tusla will continue to work with mothers.
The study also showed that Tusla were involving children and listening to their voices more. Children are getting more of a say when it comes to policy and decision-making. This is in line with international best practice.
The study also examined the public’s perception of the child and family agency. Public awareness of Tusla has increased, but the results show that families still turn to and depend on other family members and close friends for help and support, rather than contacting Tusla.
The research also called for improvements. In particular, the researchers cited the lack of overall integration in the organisation, calling for greater awareness of the different programmes within Tusla. They also recommended more funding and support for the Prevention, Partnership and Family Support programme to continue its ongoing success. The general public also need to be informed about the variety of services Tusla have on offer.
Dr Carmel Devaney, lead researcher from the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway, said that members of the public don’t always turn to Tusla: “Members of the public turned to their local GP primarily if they could not manage a parent or family problem, while increasing numbers of people are asking a teacher for assistance in this area. Family members also reported their appreciation of being included in the process of identifying their needs and in deciding on a helpful response to these.”
She also spoke about the success of the Meitheal programme: “Children and young people highlighted that they felt listened to with some noting improvements in their lives as a result of taking part in Meitheal.”
The UNESCO Child and Family Centre at NUI Galway carried out the study.