Obstacles may delay appointment of new Tusla chief executive

The incoming Chairperson of Tusla has said the post of chief executive will be advertised on March 8, but warned that the pay on offer and the shorter duration of the contract may prove obstacles to a swift appointment.

Obstacles may delay appointment of new Tusla chief executive

The incoming Chairperson of Tusla has said the post of chief executive will be advertised on March 8, but warned that the pay on offer and the shorter duration of the contract may prove obstacles to a swift appointment.

Former Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte is assuming the role of Chairperson of the Child and Family Agency and he listed a number of priority issues when he appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs, adding that he would "not rule anything out" when it came to finding ways to recruit and retain social workers.

Tusla has not had a permanent chief executive since Fred McBride stepped down at the end of last September and Pat Rabbitte said that the Child and Family Agency will have had three chief executives in a very short space of time.

"The first priority is to put in place a chief executive," he said, advising Committee members that the post would be advertised on March 8. He later said: "I can't give any assessment as to how quickly or how successful that [process] will be".

Asked if the remuneration package on offer might be a stumbling block, he said: "I think it is. You're talking about an organisation with 4,000 employees, 500 agency staff, with a very precise statutory obligation to discharge in a very complex and sensitive business, and would every chief executive out there apply for the job at the salary and duration?"

The contract duration is for five years, which Mr Rabbitte said "concerns me as well", to the extent that he had made representations on the matter to the Minister for Children, Dr Katherine Zappone. He told the Committee he felt a seven-year term was preferable and added that there was a "strong argument" for it. He said he would prefer Tusla to put its "best foot forward" when it came to recruitment, rather than having to start again later in the year, also telling the Committee that he hoped the appointment would be made in the coming months, although he admitted that might be ambitious.

Recruitment and retention of social workers was also listed as a priority area, with previous Committee meetings hearing about the difficulties in securing both a sufficient number of new graduates and experienced personnel.

"I would not rule out any dimension in terms of addressing this shortage," he said, including the possibility of administrative staff taking some functions away from social workers to free them to focus on frontline duties.

"I would not rule out anything but I am frustrated by pressure - which I fully understand - from different quarters on the agency to repair gaps in the service which at the same time acknowledges that there is a shortage of social workers, not just here but across the western world, but somehow notwithstanding that we should be able to address the gaps."

He referred to the 57,000 referrals made to Tusla last year and said: "There is a great need for more urgency in how it is progressed."

He said this would involve the Department of Education and an acceptance that Tusla was competing for staff with the HSE and the non-governmental organisations.

Other priority areas listed by the incoming Tusla Chair included the continuing implementation of recommendations from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) report last year on how the Agency deals with child protection issues, improving communications with the public and politicians, including answering parliamentary questions and addressing the issue of unallocated cases.

In his opening address Mr Rabbitte said the statute under which Tusla was founded was "uniquely prescriptive" and he told the Committee that it came into being "at the nadir of our fortunes", with insufficient resourcing only addressed in recent years.

Regarding the fall-out from the Maurice McCabe case and the damning findings of the subsequent Charleton Tribunal, he said he felt Tusla had been "too defensive in relation to how they responded to it" and that while the criticism was applied to those dealing with the McCabe case, "it unnecessarily convulsed the organisation and they were overly defensive. What happened shouldn't have happened under any set of circumstances."

But he said there had been huge progress in many areas, including the new and fully rolled-out National Child Care Information System (NCCIS) which he said was working well.

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.