Lack of social workers ‘puts children at risk’ of neglect and physical or sexual abuse

Almost one in five children waiting more than a month for a dedicated social worker is in serious danger of neglect and physical or sexual abuse, it has emerged.

Lack of social workers ‘puts children at risk’ of neglect and physical or sexual abuse

Sinn Féin TD, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children, he was very concerned that a “staggering” 5,585 children were waiting over a month to be allocated a social worker.

Mr Ó Caoláin said 1,087 of the children were classified as “high risk” and called on Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, to address the issue so as to avoid excessive delays.

“There are 3,504 children of varying degrees of need — high, medium and low, waiting more than three months and we don’t know how far beyond three months many of those might be — 606 of those are classified as high risk,” said Mr Ó Caoláin.

Describing the situation as totally unacceptable, Mr Ó Caoláin said he would be concerned if there were only six of the children described as high risk, never mind 606.

The chief executive of Tusla, Gordon Jeyes, said they were some local recruitment difficulties in more remote parts of the country.

“For example, I know we are currently running a more specific and bespoke campaign for Sligo,” said Mr Jeyes.

Tusla chief operations manager, Fred McBride, said a significant backlog of cases in Laois and Offaly had been reported to the board of Tusla and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr James Reilly.

Mr McBride said they were not sure of the status of the backlog or of the priority and level of risk associated with the cases, so a special team had been brought in to “blitz” it within a very short time.

He had taken personal responsibility for the situation in the Midlands and a new area manager and service director was now in place.

Mr Jeyes said the out-of-hours social work service was up and running.

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