Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Children Robert Troy is calling on the Children’s Minister to urgently address the shortage of social workers in the system. There are almost 200 vacancies for social work posts, with an average of one social worker leaving their job between 2010 and 2013.
Deputy Troy commented, “The very system designed to care for and support vulnerable children is failing them miserably and seems unable to contain or stabilise the situation. We were promised a new start and higher standards with the establishment of the Child and Family Agency last year, yet despite the fanfare, problems with staffing have not been resolved.
“Children referred to Tusla are some of the most vulnerable in our society but because of deficiencies in the system, these children are not even guaranteed an individual care plan. These are children in need of consistency and stability in their lives; however, Tusla figures reveal that almost 500 children in care still do not have an assigned social worker. What is equally worrying is the high number of social workers leaving their jobs over the past four years; not only does this leave a gap in the system, it makes it almost impossible for these children to build up a relationship and trust with them.
“There is a sense of irony that on the day the Government launched the terms of reference for an inquiry into wrongdoings of the past, more evidence emerges highlighting State negligence presently. These current failures also run the risk of warranting a Commission of Inquiry in the future.
“Minister James Reilly cannot afford to allow this situation to continue. Efforts must be made to speed up the recruitment process and ensure that every child has a dedicated social worker. He must also strive to improve working conditions for these workers. The loss of 326 social workers since 2010 reflects the demanding and intense nature of the job and measures must be taken to provide better supports in order to retain these highly qualified and experienced professionals.
“Child protection issues appear to have fallen down the Government’s priority list, and the recent reports highlight the significant deficits which still exist in our system. Minister Reilly needs to show leadership and speed up the social worker recruitment process, as well as setting out measures to improve retention rates”.