Social workers are failing children, claims group

An advocacy group for children in care has hit out at social workers for “failing” children following the Irish Examiner’s publication of HSE inspection reports of private children’s homes.

Jennifer Gargan, director of Empowering People in Care (Epic), has said that much of what the HSE inspectors found in the country’s private and voluntary residential centres should have been unearthed and acted upon by social workers. She said the same social workers should have better informed the children of their rights and supports so they too were aware when they were being “failed” by the system.

“Ultimately, social workers have responsibility for the children. They are statutorily bound to look after the children. They have a responsibility to stay in touch with the child, read their files, and have regular contact with the child.

“They need to build a relationship with the child. If they are visiting them regularly, they will pick up on any problems with a child or in a residential home. They should also be ensuring that any serious incident that takes place like a child being assaulted is reported. Any man on the street will know that is a breach of child protection rules.”

Following a freedom of information request, the Irish Examiner obtained copies of the HSE’s 2011 inspections of the country’s private and voluntary children’s homes.

The reports revealed how some homes had “a lack of competently qualified and experienced staff to deliver the type of care necessary”.

However, the Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW) has said social workers often have so many children on their books that they cannot see the children as much as they should.

Furthermore, even when they are unhappy with a placement, they do not “feel comfortable” complaining as there are no alternative care placements.

“There very often isn’t a solution when there are problems with a residential care placement,” said IASW president Ineke Durville.

“Also, often social workers don’t have the decision on where to send the children first day. It’s a central referral committee who decide.”


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