Tusla report: Child protection referrals rise by 9%

The number of child protection and welfare referrals lodged with Tusla last year rose 9% to 47,399, according to the Child and Family Agency’s annual report.

The report shows that 40% of those referrals made last year, totalling 19,087, were child abuse concerns. The remaining 60% (28,312) were welfare concerns.

The overall number of referrals made to Tusla has grown steadily since 2012, but in that time there has been a marked increase in the number of child welfare concerns being lodged.

According to the annual report, emotional abuse accounted for 36% of referrals and was the most common type of abuse reported last year.

A quarter of reports (4,724) involved child neglect, and another 23% (4,450 reports) referred to physical abuse. Some 3,042 reports, accounting for 16% of referrals, involved sexual abuse.

According to the report, which has been laid before the Oireachtas, there have been improvements in how cases are dealt with, particularly in relation to the allocation of social workers.

By the end of last year 78% of open cases had been allocated to a named social worker. There was still 801 high-priority cases awaiting allocation at the end of last December, although this was 20% fewer than at the same period in 2015.

Despite the increase in referrals in 2016, the total of 1,272 children listed as active on the child protection notification System was 82 fewer than at the end of 2015.

The report also shows that 1,450 referrals were made to the emergency out-of-hours social work service last year, with 480 children placed in emergency placements.

However, earlier this year an audit of Garda child-protection cases between 2008 and 2015, conducted by Special Rapporteur on Children Geoffrey Shannon, showed that the out-of-hours social work service was “systemically inadequate”, with many of the children removed by gardaí from their parents or guardian outside of normal working hours and a private foster care provider often filling the gap.

Tusla said improvements had been and were being made to the system and the report stresses the progress made in a number of areas.

Tusla report: Child protection referrals rise by 9%

The agency’s workload is also considerable — the report shows that last year 30,980 children and 23,465 families were referred to family support services.

Educational Welfare Services — one of a number of services brought under the ambit of Tusla — issued 528 school attendance notices (SANs) last year regarding children being absent from school, and 121 court summonses were issued to parents in the academic year 2015/16 because of their children’s absence from school.

The report also shows that the 126 referrals lodged last year regarding separated children seeking asylum was the highest number since 2009. Of those, 82 were placed in care.

In Tusla’s annual financial statements for 2016, it is revealed that former Tusla CEO Gordon Jeyes, left the position on February 12 last year but his contract did not expire until May 4, 2016, and according to the statement: “The former CEO was paid €41,000 in respect of this period between February and May 2016.”

Key findings of Tusla’s 2016 annual report

The Tusla 2016 Annual Report also shows:

  • 304 children were in a general residential placement — 5% of all children in care. 99% had an allocated social worker and 97% had a care plan.
  • 12 children in special care at the end of last year.
  • 1,880 young adults receiving aftercare at the end of 2016 — 45 more than in 2015. Almost 60% were in full-time education, 46% were still living with their carers, while 27% were living independently.
  • 177 adoption assessments were completed last year, including domestic, inter-country and fostering to adoption, while 64 applications were made for step-parent adoption.
  • 690 applicants awaiting an information and tracing service — up 98 compared with figures for the previous year. The rise was attributed to the transfer of 240 applicants due to the transfer of files (13,600) from St Patrick’s Guild in the second quarter of last year
  • Adoption Services hold more than 70,000 historical records relating to mother and baby homes and other societies.
  • 1,322 children on the register for home education and 485 applications made last year for home education.
  • 4,507 early years services operating at the end of 2016 — 432 new registrations last year, a threefold increase on the figure for 2015.
  • 11,768 people were informed about mental health services.
  • 9,360 people provided with counselling services
  • 1,172 complaints received by Tusla last year. An analysis of 440 complaints showed that almost 29% cited “lack of response/no response to communications/poor communication”, with 25.7% complaining of “insufficient service” and almost 11% complaining of “behaviour — staff attitude”
  • Tusla said it did not systematically record positive feedback and intends to do so in 2017, but offered a number of quotes from service users acknowledging the help and support received from the Child and Family Agency
  • The absenteeism rate rose to 5.5%, up from 5.23% a year before, and Tusla had 3,597 staff.

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