Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children Charlie McConalogue has disputed claims by the Minister for Children that she has achieved the objectives on increasing social worker numbers in line with recommendations from the Ryan Report.

Deputy McConalogue said, “Minister Fitzgerald spent last year claiming that an additional 60 social workers would be in place by the end of 2011. The reality was exposed in the Dáil on Wednesday, when the Minister was forced to admit that there is now only an additional 14 social workers in place in the area of child and family services.

“Overall, the number of social workers across all categories has actually dropped by a net 35 since Minister Fitzgerald took up office.  This is inexcusable. I have questioned her about this consistently over the past year and each time she has insisted that recruitment ‘is underway’. Her announcement today is no different to what we have heard before, but still we are yet to see the fruits of this.

“It is undoubtedly difficult to achieve a net increase in social worker numbers when there are such pressures on the public finances.  The achievement of a net 200 additional front-line social workers in 2010 was very hard won. The fact that after nearly 15 months in office, Minister Fitzgerald has only achieved a net increase of 14 posts in child and family services, and will not commit to back-filling all vacant posts, is a worrying indication that she is giving up on the hard-fought battle of increasing social worker numbers.  Blaming career breaks, maternity leave and retirements is a weak cover for the Minister’s own lack of action.

“Minister Fitzgerald must put a halt to the slide in achieving the Ryan Report recommendations on increased social workers. She must now give a clear commitment that all vacancies arising in the area of child and family services will be filled as a matter of urgency.  It is a cop out to shrug off responsibility to the HSE. It is time for the Minister to take ownership of this, to stop making excuses and to deliver.”