Tusla chief executive Gordon Jeyes said that the agency was in a “constant struggle” to work within budget and more than 5,000 children, some “at significant risk”, were awaiting allocation of a social worker.
“We are managing that risk, teams are monitoring it, they’re looking at it, they’re seeing if it changes, but there’s nevertheless a significant risk because we’re not intervening as early as we could,” he said.
“We are trapped in a cycle of crisis interventions,” he said, adding the situation served nobody.
“Later interventions are not only less effective, they’re more expensive.”
Mr Jeyes was speaking on RTÉ radio after the leaking of a briefing document prepared for a Cabinet subcommittee. The document warns of children being left at risk of serious harm, and seeks a 20% increase in Tusla’s budget over the next three years, amounting to an extra €132m.
Mr Jeyes said that, without additional funding, there would be further cuts to the specialist groups that work on Tusla’s behalf in a range of family support fields.
“It is an unfortunate truth that if we remain trapped in crisis intervention where we must intervene because of the risk of significant harm, then the pressure will remain on that we will have to reduce the services listed,” said Mr Jeyes.
ISPCC chief executive Grainia Long said the document was “deeply concerning” but not surprising.
“Tusla warnings on resourcing of child protection reflects ISPCC experience on the ground,” she said.
Fianna Fáil spokesman on children, Robert Troy, said: “This Government is walking child protection services into an emergency situation.”