Lack of services ‘puts kids at risk’

A group of social workers has warned the child and family agency’s chief executive that the lack of services to meet the needs of children and families “will place children at risk”.

The warning is contained in a letter written by the Tusla social work team in Co Clare, who told Gordon Jeyes that ongoing changes to their work practices “are putting children at risk”.

In the letter, the social workers warn “scarce resources cannot be used creatively anymore to ensure that the service is tailored to the needs of child/family. The lack of services which meet their needs will place children at risk”.

The existence of the letter emerged during family law proceedings in Ennis last June.

Tusla has released the letter written last April by the social workers in response to an FOI request.

Tusla was established at the start of 2014 and in the letter, the social workers state: “Our concern is that the sheer number of fundamental changes, new rules and work practices lead to workers being overwhelmed, confused, afraid and stressed.

“Good social work practice cannot take place under these conditions. The public is not getting the service they need.

“Decisions are made by those removed from the reality of work on the ground. Social workers do not feel supported or listened to.

“The introduction of the new agency has led to a high level of confusion and frustration experienced by staff. This leads to workers wasting much time unnecessarily.”

“The introduction of different managers over different sections can mean up to three managers are involved in a child’s case, all viewing the case from the perspective of their team. Our experience is that work is being duplicated, no professional is getting to know the child properly. Contradictory decisions are being made. This is not safe practice.

“We, the social workers, meet and see the children and families. We know what they need and we know when our system is not serving them.”

“We urge you to listen to our concerns and observations. We ask you to take the necessary steps to address these concerns and engage with workers on the ground so that the vulnerable children and families reliant on us receive the service and protection required.”

In response to the letter, a spokeswoman for Tusla said yesterday: “The transfer of Child and family services from the HSE to the new Child and Family Agency represented a significant change for staff… Tusla is engaged in implementing a variety of reforms aimed at improving service delivery and outcomes for children and families.

“Tusla recognised that these reforms and new systems present a challenge to staff. Chief executive Gordon Jeyes has been conducting visits to area offices on an ongoing basis in order to listen to and address any concerns. Mr Jeyes met with the Clare social work department to discuss service delivery during the summer.

“In its first year of operations, Tusla has begun to put in place structures which will improve service delivery and provide additional supports for staff. A review of administration staff, permission to fill posts vacant through maternity leave, plans to improve technology, etc, are continuing to impact both on service delivery and support to staff.”


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