The number of incidents notified to Tusla's Early Years Inspectorate between July and September was the highest of any quarterly period for almost three years.
The agency's third-quarter report shows that it received notification of 169 incidents, more than in any quarterly period since the start of 2018.
The same report also shows that it received 61 unsolicited information submissions in the same period, during which time 122 early-years services were found to have closed. It means 173 services closed in the first nine months of the year, by far the highest quarterly figure over the past three years, although just three have been removed from the national register since the start of 2020.
The latest report also illustrates the huge jump in demand for homeschooling. It said that 1,122 applications for home education were received during the third quarter of this year — 1,028 more, or a 12-fold increase on the period from April-June. It was also the highest number for all quarters in two years.
According to the report: "This sharp increase in applications has been linked to the Covid-19 pandemic with more parents/guardians opting to home-educate their children."
Tusla also said 1,302 children awaiting a preliminary assessment for registration for homeschooling at the end of September, 300% more than in the second quarter of this year.
Tusla's figures for referrals are a quarter in arrears, and the latest report shows that it received 13,458 referrals to child protection and welfare services between April and June, inclusive — 9% less than in the first quarter.
Of those, 62% were for welfare concerns and 38% were for abuse or neglect. The rate of referrals ranged from 6.7 per 1,000 in Donegal to 21 per 1,000 in Dublin North City — nearly double the national rate.
The highest number of referrals reported was in the Midlands (1,472), followed by Cork (1,262) and Dublin North (1,145), while the fewest number reported was in Kerry (246).
Almost every referral in 2019 was the subject of a preliminary enquiry, but this fell to 88% in the first quarter of this year and to 82% between April and June. Just 43% of referrals had a preliminary inquiry in Louth/Meath.
Overall, of those that had a preliminary inquiry, 18% required an initial assessment. ‘No further action’ was recorded in 36% of cases, with 'child protection' recorded for 19% of cases. Some 3% of children required admission to care, with 6% of cases diverted for an early-intervention response.
Tusla's latest monthly report shows 6,111 referrals in September, the highest monthly figure in a year, with a rise in the number of unallocated cases and unallocated referrals of retrospective abuse. The monthly increase was attributed to a sharp increase reported by Dublin North, due to an increase in referrals, staffing issues, and work under way to assign cases to new team formations.
According to the report, 21,761 cases were open to social work nationally at the end of the third quarter of this year, and 20% of cases were awaiting allocation — 15% more than in the second quarter of 2020.
There were 612 referrals to the national out-of-hours service, the highest quarterly figures since the start of 2018.
Also, by the end of September, Tusla had a budget overspend of €7.9m.