Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children & Youth Affairs Anne Rabbitte has called on Minister Katherine Zappone to confirm how many staff Tusla has recruited to deal with the social worker shortage in child protection services.
Despite raising the issue in the Dáil last week, Minister Zappone was unable to confirm how many temporary, permanent and senior positions have been filled this year.
Deputy Rabbitte commented, “The shortage of social workers in the system is extremely worrying and ensuring that posts are filled without delay should be one of the Minister’s top priorities. The latest figures from HIQA reveal that more than 6,500 children at risk were waiting to be allocated a social worker at the end of 2015. Almost 1,000 of these were deemed high priority cases.
“This is an extremely worrying situation and needs to be dealt with as a matter of urgency. These staff shortages not only affect the children most in need of help, they also push other less urgent cases down the list, leaving them waiting longer to see a social worker. These are vulnerable children and they are being failed by the State’s failure to recruit more staff – a problem, which should not be difficult to solve.
“The Minister claims that unallocated cases are “closely monitored, supported and managed by the duty social work team”. This is not enough. €6.1m was allocated to Tusla to recruit an additional 168 social workers this year, however Minister Zappone was unable to tell me if the 110 social workers employed to date were on temporary or permanent contracts. I have concerns that the approach adopted by Tusla to engage with third level institutions to recruit additional staff may result in a shortage of experienced social workers in the system and I am calling on the Minister to ensure that experienced workers are employed to provide oversight, management and training to newly qualified recruits”.