One in seven children who are in care in Co Galway have no social worker allocated to look after their specific interests, described by a Galway TD as ‘a continuing national disgrace’.
A total of 57 children were awaiting an allocated aftercare social worker in the Galway-Roscommon administrative area at the start of the year, Independent TD Noel Grealish has been informed by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone.
“This is simply shocking — it’s nothing new that there are so many waiting for a social worker … and that’s why it is so shocking,” said the Galway West TD this week.
“I have raised this issue several times in the past, but nothing seems to be changing. A year and a half ago, I thought things had reached an all-time low when 47 children in foster care in our area didn’t have a dedicated social worker.
“But now these latest figures I received in reply to a Dáil Question I tabled to the Minister show that the figure has risen to 57 — that’s almost 14% of the 414 children in care in Galway and Roscommon, double the national rate and one of the highest percentages in the country.”
Deputy Grealish said that nationally, 453 children of the 6,243 in state care under Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, at the start of this year didn't have a social worker allocated, or more than 7% of the total.
“What’s really disturbing about this is that each and every year going back to at least 2010, and probably before that, the numbers without a social worker in Ireland have ranged between 400 and more than 500 … and today it’s just not getting any better.
“We’ve had way too many disturbing revelations recently concerning what has happened the most vulnerable in our society to let this situation continue. It’s a continuing national disgrace.
“Hundreds and hundreds of foster families throughout Galway and the rest of the country are doing a wonderful job of taking these children under their roofs.
“But, as I have said before, they would be the first to agree that the children must have the best possible support and aftercare to make sure they are being looked after properly.
“We have seen enough awful things that can happen when the social supports are not operating effectively not to have learned our lesson.”
In her reply to Deputy Grealish, Minister Zappone said the issue was a key priority for her.
“I secured additional funding for this purpose in 2017, and Tusla is now in the second year of a 3-year plan to ensure that a social worker is allocated to all children and young people who need one.
“It is important to emphasise that, as Tusla's 3-year plan to address unallocated cases continues, all urgent cases are dealt with immediately and do not simply go on a waiting list.”
Deputy Grealish also asked the Minister to explain why some areas appeared to have a shortage of social workers who could be allocated to look after the interests of every child in care, the number that would need to be employed to ensure that no child in care is without a dedicated social worker and the additional cost of this.
Dr Zappone said her officials had requested the information from Tusla and she would forward the reply to Deputy Grealish.