Fianna Fáil spokesperson on children and youth affairs, Anne Rabbitte has said it is simply inexcusable that nearly one in four children that Tusla have concerns over have no social workers assigned to them.
Deputy Rabbitte said it was a matter of child welfare and safety and there could be no excuse for so many children to be without the required professional support acting on their behalf.
Deputy Rabbitte was commenting after it became clear that 5,720 out of Tusla’s total case load of 25,387 have yet to be allocated a social worker.
The Deputy said; “What is very concerning is that the number of children and teenagers without access to a social worker is continuing to increase. Just nine months ago, in October 2016, 4,282 children were without a social worker. By February of this year, that figure had increased to 5,720 with worryingly nearly 20 per cent of them deemed high priority.
“It is clear that the issues that have beset Tusla in recent months are getting worse and Tusla’s ability to do its job are being severely hampered. Only last week we were shocked to learn of the misuse of Section 12s, and the severe lack of appropriate supports after 5pm, and the siloed communications between gardai, Tusla and the HSE.
“The recruitment of social workers to meet the needs of vulnerable children should be Tusla’s absolute priority, yet it is now abundantly clear that the recruitment of social workers has not been prioritised to such an extent to allow it meet its demand for services and support.
“Funding, I am led to believe, is not an issue. As such, Tusla need to start demonstrating to us how they expect to recruit the staff they need to fulfil their role. In the meantime, Tusla need to reach out to non-governmental agencies and organisations with a view to seconding staff to fill the gaps while they recruit staff. The HSE, advocacy organisations, and other bodies need to be brought in to ensure the safety of children.
“We cannot leave vulnerable children in a position where they aren’t being supported in the way they need. It is simply incomprehensible that Minister Zappone has not been more open about the challenges Tusla are having in recruiting staff.
“One would hope and expect that she would be engaging with Tusla management on an almost daily basis to find solutions to this challenge. However, it seems to me that, like so many other issues in Tusla, the Minister is not on top of this issue.”