No social worker for 800 children in state care

NEARLY 800 children in the care of the Health Service Executive do not have an allocated social worker.

Children’s rights advocates voiced concern yesterday at the figures, stressing that children were being denied basic services like a care plan or a review of their care.

Some 5,877 children were in care at the end of July this year, according to the executive’s latest performance report.

The number of children in foster and residential care overall has increased by 3.6% since the same period last year.

But more than one in 10 of the minors in care had no social worker assigned to them. The HSE said in its report that the reason 793 children (13.5%) were without social workers was mainly due to an inability to fill the posts.

Norah Gibbons, director of advocacy with Barnardos, said those without a social worker were being denied supervision of their care.

“This is a shocking problem. Children don’t go into care lightly but when they do, they have suffered a disruption.”

Ms Gibbons added that the Government had committed to the Ryan implementation report a year ago that all children in care would be assigned social workers.

The Irish Association of Social Workers said it was a mystery why all children in care did not have social workers attached to them. It said that due to the recruitment embargo, workers on maternity and sick leave were not being covered.

The HSE report also found that nearly 1,000 hospital beds remain unused for a variety of reasons, mainly affecting surgeries.

At the end of July, there were 966 (927 inpatient and 39 day) beds unavailable for discharges.

Reasons given for the non-used beds include planned reductions (762), refurbishment or maintenance (49), other (105) as well as seasonal changes (4) and infection control (7).

Nearly half the number of unavailable beds were in surgery while 341 related to medical care and a small number were in the areas of critical care and oncology.

But despite the huge numbers of unused beds, there are still thousands of patients waiting for treatments.

Figures from the HSE performance report reveal that over 46,000 adults and children were waiting for hospital treatment in July.

There were 15,206 patients waiting for inpatient care, half of whom were new referrals.

Elsewhere, there were 31,254 patients waiting for day care procedures.

Over 5,400 extra patients were waiting for hospital treatment in July compared to the same time last year.

The lists for the first time include patients waiting less than three months.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund yesterday said the overall delay for operations was still the same, averaging 2.5 months.

It said: “It is waiting times rather than numbers waiting that are the better indicator of the efficacy of a health system.”

But Fine Gael’s James Reilly said the huge waiting lists were a sign of a dysfunctional service being run by Health Minister Mary Harney.

“There are real people behind these statistics bearing the pain of the Health Minister’s abject failures. The numbers will continue to grow as more and more services are slashed, theatres and wards are closed and financial measures bite.”


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