A social worker in the midlands employed by the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, has been put on administrative leave in the fallout from the “discovery” of hundreds of “unidentified” child protection files in the Laois/Offaly area.
However, Impact is demanding the worker’s reinstatement on the basis of what it claims is “false information” circulated by Tusla in the wake of the find.
Last week Tusla chief executive Gordon Jeyes said the “previously unidentified” files were found after the agency’s new service delivery framework was implemented.
However Impact, which represents all Tusla social workers, said this was a “completely false statement to make”: that senior management within the agency had been made repeatedly aware of the existence of the files over a number of years.
The initial number of “unidentified” files, cited as 700 by Tusla last week, was yesterday revised upwards to 1,200 by Mr Jeyes, who appeared before the Oireachtas health committee.
In addition, there are 822 unacknowledged garda referrals, where gardaí highlighted a concern to child protection services but where no record exists of what action, if any, was taken.
Mr Jeyes told the committee a newly appointed principal social worker had reported concerns in April about a number of files “the status of which was unclear”. He was informed of “particular concerns” by Tusla’s director of quality assurance on April 24, he said.
However, Impact assistant general secretary Denis Rohan said the files had been “part of the statistical returns” social workers made on a monthly basis and that senior management was aware of them for years. Mr Rohan said the build-up of files was fuelled by a failure to provide cover for staff on maternity leave, together with increased demand for child and family services.
Screening of the 1,200 files by social workers to determine what actions need to be taken was due for completion today. Seán Fleming TD was highly critical of Tusla’s midlands service, saying he had “substantially given up on it”; that various gardaí, public health nurses and school principals told him they had reported concerns to the service (previously the HSE) over the years “and they’ve never heard anything back”.
Committee chair Jerry Buttimer TD said there was a need for “ongoing engagement” with Tusla so that the public could have confidence in child and family services.
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