New analysis of Tusla’s legal spend in childcare cases shows that the type of case influences how much money is spent on it.
The child and family agency has made efforts in recent years to trim its legal spend when it comes to cases before court.
A separate report, published last year, showed the often adversarial nature of cases involving child welfare and protection costs Tusla more money.
The latest research, entitled ‘After the Reforms: An Analysis of the Factors Associated with the Use of Legal Services in Child Welfare Proceedings in Ireland’, was written by academics from the Department of Economics and the School of Applied Social Studies and Institute for Social Science at University College Cork.
Looking at 1,032 cases across Tusla’s financial billing system, it found the most frequently occurring activities were Section 17 interim care orders (52%), Section 18 care orders (40%), general advice (30%), emergency care order (28%), and supervision orders (28%).
One-third of the matters analysed related to the Dublin/Mid-Leinster area, 27% related to the West area, 22% to Dublin North-East, and the remaining 19% the South. In addition, 61% of matters involved billed partner time, 54% had associate time, and 33% had solicitors involved.
When it came to the types of legal activities, when present, that increased spending on legal services, cases involving adoption, adoption domestic, care order Section 18, child abduction, criminal proceedings, disclosure criminal and emergency care order Section 13 were most costly.
Researchers said this showed that legal factors, as well as the experience of legal personnel involved, positively influenced legal spend, but that geographical area did not positively impact on legal spend.
The research found: “The empirical results reveal an increase in legal activities and complexity of same is associated with an increase in legal spend in Tusla. This is encouraging and suggests that spending on legal services is based on need.
“The results reveal that engagement with legal services necessitated by the adversarial nature of child welfare proceedings has considerable cost implications.
“However, while substantial, the costs do appear to be proportional to the legal activity, which should negate inefficiency and waste. Therefore, suggesting that resource allocation is based on need.”