Concern about the number of children in care in Galway who do not have a social worker allocated to them has been raised by Galway West Independent TD Noel Grealish.
“More than one in ten of these children hasn’t yet had a social worker allocated to their care, which is among the highest rates in the country.
“It is particularly shocking in the light of the awful revelations in recent weeks about the abuse suffered by a young woman in a foster home in the South East,” he said.
Deputy Grealish said that there were 412 children in care in the Galway-Roscommon area at the end of October last, according to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.
“But I am shocked to learn that only 365 have an allocated social worker — which means that there are 47 children without one.
“The figures show that Galway-Roscommon has the highest percentage of children in care without an allocated social worker in the country, 11%, second only to the mid-west area. Nationally, the average is much lower, at 7%.”
The figures were given by James Reilly, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, in response to a Dáil question. He said that where a child was awaiting the allocation of a social worker, “this is responded to by a social work team on a risk management basis”.
Tusla's policy was that all children coming into care and those in high risk placements had an allocated social worker. “Subsequent gaps may be attributed to a number of factors including maternity leave, vacancies and competing priorities.”
Nationally, almost 93% of children in care are in a foster care setting, which meant that the vast majority of the Galway-Roscommon children involved were in foster homes.
Deputy Grealish, who is standing for re-election as an Independent candidate in Galway West, said that there was clearly a gap that needed to be urgently filled in the Galway-Roscommon area.
“After all we have heard in recent weeks about the total breakdown in care in the case in the South East, where a young woman was left for 20 years practically abandoned in a foster home where there was an established history of horrific abuse, this is a real worry.
“I don’t know why there are 47 children in foster homes in Galway and Roscommon without a specific social worker checking on their care, but clearly it needs to be investigated as a matter of urgency and extra resources allocated if needed.
“I want to stress that the vast, vast majority of children placed in foster care are in a loving and caring environment and those who open their homes to them are true heroes, but recent events show that we cannot be too careful,” added Deputy Grealish.