The Child and Family agency has said it will respond to new figures which show the number of cases of retrospective abuse awaiting allocation to a social worker has overtaken the number of cases that have been allocated.
The most recent monthly report issued by Tusla shows that in January the number of unallocated cases overtook the number of cases that had been allocated for the first time, with that trend accelerating in February and again in March, when there was also an increase in the number of allocated cases.
The number of monthly referrals of such cases peaked in January at 321, and in February the number of open cases of retrospective abuse stood at 2,824.
The Child and Family has stressed its efforts to recruit more staff and a spokesperson said: "Tusla is actively working on strengthening the front door and building extra capacity to respond and divert cases onto appropriate response pathways in a more timely manner.
"Tusla is in the process of developing a new Child Abuse Substantiation Procedure (CASP) to replace Tusla’s 2014 Policy. Planning for the implementation of the new procedure is taking place, including review of resources and structures dealing with child abuse, including retrospective referrals."
While the number of medium and high priority cases awaiting allocation has remained relatively static over the past year, there has been a steady increase in the number of low priority cases awaiting allocation in the same period, from 891 cases in February last year to 2,126 in February this year.
The February report also showed that for the first time in a number of years the number of children in the state care system fell below 6,000. Former Tusla chief executive Fred McBride had previously said that the Child and Family Agency's child protection and welfare strategy, including its Signs of Safety model, may lead to a fall in the numbers of young people in care. In March the number of children in care rose slightly once again to 6,005.
The spokesperson said:
"It is important to note that no research has been carried out so other factors may also be at play. The rise in private fostering may reflect a general difficulty in recruitment of foster parents and more agencies looking for that same pool of carers. It is too early to say definitely what the reasons are."
However, while the number of children in care has fallen, there has been no corresponding fall in the number of cases awaiting allocation to a social worker - rising from 4,689 to 6,298 in 11 months to last February, before falling back to under 6,000 in March.