Social workers criticise HSE child protection process

SOCIAL workers are on a collision course with the HSE over a new standardisation process for dealing with child protection cases, including sexual abuse cases.

The Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW) will launch its opposition to the system tomorrow as part of a wider campaign.

It will claim that extensive research indicates that the proposed system, if implemented, would negatively impact on child welfare and would lead to social workers spending 60%-80% of their time at their desks.

The National Child Care Information System Business Process Standardisation Project is being introduced to increase the amount of data the HSE has available on children interacting with care services. On the HSE plans, the IASW claims:

* There is no space or prompts for a child’s date of birth on the care plan document.

* No delineation is made between intra-family and extra-family sexual abuse.

* These and other issues were raised with the HSE, but the finished documents are identical to those shown to social workers during a brief consultation period.

* The system closely follows that which operated in Britain in the early part of the last decade and attracted serious criticism from a number of researchers.

Among those who will speak at tomorrow’s launch of Call for Change will be Professor Sue White, chairwoman of the British Association of Social Work Professors, and Prof Bríd Featherstone, of NUI Galway. Both are expected to reference the British Munro Child Protection Review, which was published earlier this year and criticised various aspects of the project when it ran in Britain.

The HSE last night said the National Child Care Information System was still at the developmental stage, while the National Office of Children and Family Services was committed to consulting with frontline staff. A spokesperson added that accurate and valid data was an important part of child protection.

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