Inadequate Tusla staffing ‘a continued cause for concern’ – Ó Laoghaire
Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Children and Youth Affairs Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has expressed his concern that significant gaps and weaknesses exist in relation to Child Protection, and particular, the inadequate resourcing and staffing of Tusla.
His comments come in response to the publication of the HIQA regulation of Social Care and Healthcare services report, as well as recent research carried out by The Detail, regarding the disparities between levels of staffing, North and South.
Deputy Ó Laoghaire said:
“It has been a source of great concern, for quite some time, that children at risk are falling through the cracks and that the staffing does not exist to ensure high enough levels of child protection.
“It is an incredible statistic that there are three times as many child and family social workers in the North, by comparison to the South. There is also a fourfold gap in children at risk rates between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; this is not likely to be due to any difference in abuse levels, simply the standard of monitoring.
“Social Workers are consequently often overworked and carrying large caseloads. The figures from the investigation show Tusla is losing on average 150 social workers every year. In stark contrast, by the end of 2016, the net increase in child and family social workers was just 56. This year, the projected net gain in social workers is 62.
“This is from a context where, in December 2016, there were 5,413 cases where there were concerns regarding a child, where a Social Worker was not with the case. This is simply not good enough, and is putting children at risk.
“According to an answer I received to a parliamentary question, there are 843 high priority unallocated cases, 378 of those in excess of three months.
“There are some positives in the HIQA report, and I welcome that the number of high priority unallocated cases has reduced from 10pc in 2014, but it is still much, much too high.
“I would echo the comments of the Children’s Ombudsman, Niall Muldoon, saying Tusla needs to be much better resourced to ensure that Child Protection standards are acceptable and that children aren’t at risk. The Government needs to engage with significant recruitment of Social Workers.”