Surge in children referred to HSE crisis unit

A RECORD number of children required crisis intervention from the HSE last year, with the executive admitting that there is a “significant under-resourcing” of social work departments to meet the challenge.

Statistics show that 820 children were referred to the HSE’s Crisis Intervention Service last year, up from 764 in 2008.

In the first five months of this year another 372 children were referred.

The numbers have risen consistently, as has the rate of crisis referrals overall each year. A child may be referred multiple times.

Last year there were 3,564 referrals overall, the highest number since 2004 when 453 children were referred, indicating that while more children are being referred, they are being referred less often.

The HSE runs the Crisis Intervention Service (CIS) – including out-of-hours social work service, a day support service and a range of emergency/residential services that cover areas of Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow – and also pays for a service run by Five Rivers, a private foster care service which provides a number of families to the HSE to give an out-of-hours response to children requiring emergency placement by An Garda Síochána.

Figures show that from January to June 23 this year, there were 67 placements to Five Rivers Ireland.

Last year, 673 referrals came from north Dublin alone, involving 86 children. By contrast, there were just 147 referrals from outside the eastern region in 2009.

The figures are included in a response to the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee.

Using a comparison of staff to children ratios in five council areas of the North versus HSE areas here, the HSE response to the committee states: “The Western Health and Social Care Trust [in the North] employs about 200 social workers, including area managers and social work managers for a child population of 77,108.

“If you compare this to Galway with a child population of 55,306 and staffing of 34.85 WTE [whole time equivalents] or Dublin North with a child population of 55,018 and a staffing of 45.48 WTE or Kildare/West Wicklow with a child population of 54,930 and a staffing of 52.5 WTE, the results are stark.”

A HSE survey shows five local health offices recorded total caseloads in excess of 1,000 cases: Wexford, 1,142; Cork North Lee, 1,115; Dublin North Central, 1,083; Louth, 1,078; and Waterford, 1,050.

Seventeen local health offices recorded total caseloads between 500 and 1,000. Eight recorded caseloads of between 246 and 500.

The answers to the HSE are as a result of questions asked at a meeting earlier this year when former HSE chief executive Prof Brendan Drumm and others appeared before the committee.

However, some of the data provided to the committee is based on figures dating from 2005, such as the ratio of social work posts to regional population.

It states that there is no recommendation regarding the ratio of social work posts to population here and that it would be difficult to enumerate an ideal ratio of social work posts to population as requirements vary across the country.

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