Calls for out-of-hours service 10 years ago

THE need for an out-of-hours child protection service was highlighted in the south east 10 years ago in a child care report.

Drawn up by the then South Eastern Health Board, the report said: “The lack of an out-of-hours emergency service at nights, weekends and public holidays leads to difficulties for individuals and agencies who wish to make crisis referrals to the board’s child care services.”

Currently Dublin city is the only part of the country to have an out-of-hours service despite health boards repeatedly highlighting the need for such a service in other parts of the country.

In 2001, the North Western Health Board, in its Review of the Adequacy of Child Care and Family Support Services, said: “It is acknowledged that 7x24 hour service is required and currently national deliberations are attempting to find a resolution.”

In 2004, the North Eastern Health Board identified as a “key inadequacy” the need for a dedicated out-of-hours service for children and families in its Review of Child Care and Family Support Services.

However, Dublin South City and Dublin West are the only areas of the country with a HSE after-hours social work service — in the form of a Crisis Intervention Service (CIS). This is a dedicated team of social care workers who respond to any crisis involving an adolescent or child.

Last weekend, at the AGM of the Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW), a motion was passed calling on the HSE to provide out-of-hours child protection and community care social work teams on a national basis.

According to the IASW, where you live will determine whether or not you receive social work assistance including in cases where families need a trained professional to help them solve a crisis.

IASW spokesman Declan Coogan said they were seeking a different model to the CIS, which is made up of social workers only.

“It’s become such a crisis for the south east generally, that on Friday we called for the establishment of nationwide teams, to include those who could make a risk assessment and to also make an assessment of where the solutions lie, whether in the direct family or in the wider community, for instance whether to involve the grandparents rather than putting the child straight into a care situation.”

Mr Coogan said the IASW wanted multi-disciplinary teams to be put in place, involving not just social workers, but also psychologists, mental health professionals and doctors. He said they had asked the HSE to clarify what plans it had for an out-of-hours service under Provisions For Change, including the make-up of teams.

“We want the HSE to consult with those who work in the area,” he said.

Under the Child Care Act 2001, the HSE is mandated to provide an out-of-hours service.

A working group set up by the HSE last year is due to report shortly.

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