The Government is working to recruit social workers in a situation where the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, experiences challenges in allocating all the child abuse notifications received to social workers so that they may be investigated in a timely manner, Kildare North TD, Bernard Durkan has been told in the Dail.
Deputy Durkan (FG) asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs about resources to address children at risk in Kildare and elsewhere.
He was told that Kildare has 96 social workers or a full time equivalent of almost 83 and has 20 social care workers, equivalent to just over full time equivalent.
The Minister said that annual data on child protection and welfare referrals show significant annual increases with an increase of 40% or more since 2015.
The Minister also said that Ireland has half the number of child protection social workers that England does and only one quarter of the number in Northern Ireland.
The State has 1,627 social workers and 1302, social care staff. “The number of social workers trained has not kept pace with the expanding number of posts in disability, mental health and vulnerable adult settings in addition to posts in Tusla. The working environment in child protection is recognised as being among the most challenging with high levels of stress and burnout.”
The Minister said Tusla is working with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the Department of Health, the Higher Education Authority, universities and others “to address these fundamental difficulties.”
It is “working to recruit social workers and strengthen retention measures and as part of this strategy creating more attractive working conditions and setting reasonable expectations of professional workloads.”
The Minister also said Tusla is strengthening processes at the beginning of the child protection process focussing on working with families. “Tusla child protection duty social work teams screen all referrals to determine whether a report meets the eligibility criteria. When notifications are screened and assessed they are prioritised and the most urgent referrals are given priority ensuring that the children most requiring protection receive this support and protection in the most timely manner. All urgent cases are assigned immediately to a social worker.”
The Minister said that in addition to the Social Work Child Protection Service, a suite of PPFS services including Family Support and Meitheal are available to support families across county Kildare with all Child and Family Support Networks now live in Kildare since January 2019. Tusla funded services, including the Family Assessment and Intervention Model (FAIM) and the range of supports offered by Kildare Youth Services are also available.
The Area actively engages through a range of Fora with An Garda Siochána, HSE Mental Health and Disability Service and with a range of other local partners through the Children and Young Persons Services Committee (CYPSC).