Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman has said he is concerned at the shortage of social workers which he acknowledged has led to delays in assessments and growing waiting lists.
Mr O’Gorman was commenting on a Hiqa report into child and welfare services in the Dublin South West, Kildare and West Wicklow service area which said that children who alleged abuse, inappropriate contact and sexual assault had been left on waiting lists for months.
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Today Show, Mr O’Gorman said that the fact that any children were awaiting a significant period of time was a concern and his Department was engaging with social workers in that area.
“We have a very significant problem in terms of the recruitment of social workers.
"There is a real pressure there right now. We have about 1600 social workers across Tusla, and we are having difficulties in terms of recruitment and retention.”
Mr O’Gorman said the report did find that those children who were in most urgent need were seen within the requisite time in terms of their assessment.
“Nevertheless, additional social workers have been put in place now to deal with both the intake of new cases and also new team leads have been put in place as well to provide greater levels of coverage in terms of social work.
“The wider piece of work and it's work that's relevant to all areas around the country is hiring more social workers.
"That's through the graduate entry programme that Tusla has initiated through bringing agency social workers into social work as full-time social workers, through adding social work to the list of critical skills. Tusla continues to hire social workers from abroad.”
Mr O’Gorman said that the issue of fostering children was also being addressed with 90 per cent of children who are in care in Ireland in foster care, a rate that is much higher in Ireland than other European countries.
He had engaged “extensively” with groups representing foster carers who wanted the foster care allowance increased in this year’s Budget along with a new foster care framework.
By Vivienne Clarke
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