The Health Service Executive today outlined the significant amount of funding and staffing that is currently being invested to provide a wide array of childcare services in response to recent media coverage of social work services.
The past decade has seen considerable expansion and development in the range and quality of child and family services in Ireland. As a result, child and family services are now a blend of well-established, proven, and new and innovative interventions and practices.
The expenditure on Children, Adolescent & Family services in PCCC in 2007 was in the order of 572ml. Of this 460ml approx was spent on direct Children and Family services.
Within Child and Family services there have been significant increases.
Family Support funding has risen 79% between 2003 and 2007 to a total of almost 82m.
Foster care has received an increase in funding of 23% between 2003 and 2007 to a total of 98m last year.
Residential care placements were funded to the tune of over 135m in 2007 (an increase of 7% since 2003).
Staffing and Social Work Posts
The HSE has a policy of prioritising the filling of frontline posts to enable the delivery of services to patients and clients.
The current HSE census shows that at the end of March 2008 there were 2,218 staff employed in the social worker discipline. These would include basic, team leader and principal social workers.
There are also a number of local recruitment campaigns in progress and later this year a national campaign will be undertaken for basic social workers.
The total number of approved Children and Family social work posts is 1232 when account is taken of all Children and Family Services including:
- Child Protection Teams;
- Child Sexual Abuse Investigation;
- Children In Care Teams;
- Alternative Care Teams (Inclusive of fostering and adoption);
- Special Family Projects;
- Social Work Managers;
- Child And Adolescent Mental Health Services;
- Acute and Maternity Hospitals and all other services relating to Children and Families.
There can be a significant turn-over (as in other areas) in social work employment, i.e. maternity leave special leave arrangements and retention and there are currently 163 vacant posts. 47 of those vacancies are currently in the process of being filled.
Overall, since 2004, there has been a 12% growth in social work posts in place and recruitment is ongoing to meet vacancies on a priority needs basis. Social Work panels are in place across the country and work is in train to address gaps and areas of high priority. For example, interviews were held in the Dublin area in the past two weeks and others are scheduled. The HSE had held hundreds of competitions for social workers (local, regional, national) since 2005 (on average 70 competitions per year).
Child Protection Service Activity
The total number of all reports, including child abuse and child welfare, to social work departments has increased from 18,438 in 2004 to 20,164 in 2006. All of these reports are routinely screened to determine the issues involved.
Of the 20,164 reports in 2006:
- 5,810required an Initial Assessment regarding possible abuse;
- 5,834required an initial assessment concerning child welfare.
That combined figure of 11.644 in 2006 has reduced from 14,122 in 2004.
Those 11,644 Initial Assessments were all carried out and resulted in:
- 1,492confirmed cases of abuse (1,414 in 2004 );
- 351where abuse was non confirmed or unfounded;
- 958where there was an inconclusive outcome;
- 766where assessment was on-going.
There were 5,247 children in the Care of the HSE at the end of 2006, up from 5,060 in 2004. This is 51 per 10,000 under 18 child population ( England 55, Scotland 66, N. Ireland 56 ).
88% of these children were placed in foster care up from 84% in 2004, which is line with policy that it is in the child’s interest to be in a home environment i.e. foster care, where appropriate, rather than residential care .There were 1,844 children admitted to Care during the year in 2006, down from 2,107 in 2004. This is 17 per 10,000 under 18 child population. (England 23, Scotland 24, N. Ireland 21 ).
At the end of 2007, 90% of all children in Care have an allocated social worker. It should be noted that all children in Care have access to social work and other services as required.
Mr Aidan Waterstone, National Specialist, Children and Family Services, today emphasised –
“The HSE encourages anyone with concerns about the welfare or protection of any child to contact their local HSE social work department or an Garda Siochana.. Contact details are available on the HSE website”.
Last updated on: 13 / 05 / 2008