Preparations have been made to provide the 24-hour on-call service but Tusla had to wait for the green light from the trade unions. Management and the unions are to meet next week to put the final arrangements in place.
ISPCC chief executive Grainia Long described the absence of a 24-hour social work service as a national scandal.
“We have a severely under-resourced child protection system and it has been that way for some time,” she said.
Meanwhile, Garda investigations into allegations of child physical abuse in north Dublin were “impeded” because of a significant delay in social workers reporting them, it has emerged.
Hiqa inspectors found serious shortcomings in the way Tusla dealt with suspected or confirmed abuse.
Some cases were not reported to gardaí until after an initial assessment was carried out, despite the fact physical abuse was reported at the time of referral.
Hiqa’s inspection last February found 828 notifications were made to gardaí about suspected or confirmed abuse.
“Considering the delay in carrying out a number of initial assessments, this was not in line with Children First [national guidelines for the protection and welfare of children] and was not adequate,” the health watchdog said.
The report points out that the issue had been addressed through liaison meetings between the gardaí and Tusla management. “The issue was resolved by outlining the relevant steps of the Garda investigation process and the impact of untimely notifications from the social work service,” the report states.
Gardaí told inspectors that Tusla’s response had been impressive in the last 12 months.
Tusla area manager for north Dublin, Lorna Kavanagh, said there had been a strengthening of communication and information sharing between Tusla and the gardaí in relation to the management of cases.
Hiqa inspectors also found that newly qualified but inexperienced social workers were dealing with complex cases involving long-term harm and neglect.
Staff levels were another concern raised by Hiqa. There were 12 vacant social work posts at the time of the inspection.
Tusla said six additional social worker posts would be recruited and cultural diversity training was being rolled out across the country.