The number of school absenteeism cases awaiting allocation to an educational welfare officer rose 52% in the year to last December.
Figures contained in Tusla’s 2019 Business Plan show an overall increase in the number of referrals screened last year by the Educational Welfare Services within the child and family agency.
In total, some 6,653 referrals were screened in 2018, up 13% on the figure for 2017 while, by the end of last year, there were 3,084 cases open to the service.
“Some 1,519 referrals were awaiting allocation to an educational welfare officer,” it said.
A total of 704 school attendance notices — the first step in legal proceedings — were issued under Section 25 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000 in 2018, 50 fewer than 2017, while 169 summonses were issued, 18 more than 2017. The school attendance notices in 2018 were issued in respect of 477 individual children, and summonses issued in respect of 122 individual children.
The report also shows that Tusla’s service for separated children seeking asylum received 129 referrals last year, 46 fewer than in 2017. At the end of November 2018, there were 68 children in care under the social work team for separated children seeking asylum — 12 fewer than the start of the year.
With much focus on difficulties in the recruitment of social workers, the report states that one aim is “liaison with third-level institutions regarding bursaries and engagement on increasing the supply of social work and social care graduates”.
In terms of managing workload, measures include “enhancement of operational guidance for the management of serious concerns and allegations underway. In tackling social work attrition rates, one response is a “review of exit interview data to identify areas for improvement for social work retention” and development of a retention strategy.
As for the possibility of “adverse media attention”, measures include “the building-in of consideration for potential reputational damage into major strategic and business planning decisions” and strengthening of the corporate culture.