Launching its 2015 annual report Tusla said there had been a 21% reduction of cases awaiting allocation to a social worker compared with figures for 2014, with a 65% reduction of high priority cases awaiting allocation to a social worker in the same period.
There was a total of 6,388 children in care last year, 93% of whom were in foster care, while 1,835 young adults were in receipt of aftercare. Almost one-third of those in foster care were being cared for by a relative.
However, while there were 4,445 foster carers approved on the panel of foster carers at the end of last year, there was a total of 57 monitoring visits carried out across Tusla regions to assess compliance with the National Standards for Foster Care.
There were 327 children in general residential services at the end of last year, 98% of whom had an allocated social worker; and 16 out-of-state placements.
The report also outlines how last year a total of 43,596 referrals were made to child protection and welfare services, with 42% of these relating to abuse/neglect and 58% linked to child welfare issues. At the end of 2015, there were 26,655 open cases of which 75% were allocated to a social worker — up from 69% in 2014.
It also revealed that 195 complaints were lodged with Tusla last year under a new National Incident Management System (NIMS), and that a quarter of these related to Tusla assessments and reports, “in particular alleged failures to take into account the concerns of family members or to consider all the evidence available”.
Director of EPIC (Empowering People In Care), Jennifer Gargan, said this reflects concerns raised by young people at its National Advocacy Service over the “the suitability or appropriateness of their placement”. She added that aftercare provision is still inconsistent across the country.
The ISPCC also welcomed signs of progress but said some areas are in need of attention. Its chief executive, Grainia Long, said: “Despite the progress in regards to the reduction in the number of allocations, there remains 6,718 children awaiting a social worker while the number of high priority cases awaiting allocation stands at 999. A lot more progress is needed in this area.”
.Last year was the second full year of operations for Tusla and its CEO, Fred McBride, said: “At a difficult time and with limited resources, Tusla made a strong start to introducing reforms, transforming services and ultimately improving outcomes for children.”
He has already claimed that Tusla is on course to meet its targets for this year, although the most recent monthly data, for May 2016, shows that there were more than 1,000 high priority open cases still awaiting allocation to a social worker, including 304 waiting for more than three months.
The figures for May show many areas were still short of the target for having an allocated social worker, particularly those in relative foster care, with increases in absenteeism among residential care staff and a €1.6m overspend by last May.