Tusla letter to Scouting Ireland was 'routine business', Rabbitte says

Tusla letter to Scouting Ireland was 'routine business', Rabbitte says

A letter sent to Scouting Ireland outlining serious concerns around child safety and protection was "routine business", Tusla chairman Pat Rabbitte said.

The former politician also said that, instead of "going around the back of the scrum" by writing to Children's Minister Katherine Zappone to have the letter withdrawn, Scouting Ireland should have contacted Tusla officials.

Tusla had written to the organisation on February 18 highlighting significant concerns around child protection.

The agency listed eight recommendations that it required Scouting Ireland to implement.

However, Scouting Ireland strongly refuted the concerns and questioned the child and family agency on its recommendations.

Both Scouting Ireland and Tusla are scheduled to meet on Tuesday next but the scouting body insists on a meeting more sooner, “given the seriousness of the issue”.

Today, ex-Labour leader Mr Rabbitte said the scouting organisation's interim safeguarding manager Ian Elliot had written to Ms Zappone "demanding, in intemperate terms, that the letter be withdrawn".

For Tusla, it was no more than routine business; there was engagement with Scouting Ireland ongoing, there would be continuing meetings, if there were views in Scouting Ireland about the rigour of the letter then the place to confront that was in a direct meeting with the senior people in Tusla.

"It's a matter of professional practice, it's not a matter of politicking or going around the back of the scrum and trying to get the letter withdrawn - these are serious concerns about compliance," Mr Rabbitte said.

In a statement today, Tusla said: “We do have concerns about current practices and procedures in Scouting Ireland and overall compliance with Children First.

"We have invited Scouting Ireland to meet with us to discuss these concerns and progress the recommendations to ensure that the practices and procedures in place are in line with Children First, are robust and that children are as safe as possible. We look forward to meeting with Scouting Ireland.”

But the organisation, with over 50,000 members, said it was Scouting Ireland who wrote to Tusla seeking a meeting.

Separately, Mr Rabbitte called for a change in the way social workers are trained in Ireland.

He said the volume of social workers graduating is not sufficient to meet demand and there is a need “to go outside traditional universities” - hinting at other third-level institutions.

If Ireland were to have the same ratio of social workers as the UK then it would be necessary to recruit 1,500 extra people, he said.

Just 215 social workers graduate each year while, last year alone, 158 social workers left through retirement or quit the service.

Furthermore, at any one time, 92 people are on maternity leave.

"We have to go outside the traditional universities, there is no reason why the Technological University of Dublin or the Institutes of Technology around the country ought not to be involved in the education and training of social workers," he said, adding that conversation courses for social care workers could also be considered.

Mr Rabbitte noted Tusla has 4,000 employees and dealt with 57,000 referrals last year.

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