HSE director questions resource use

Thu, Jun 7, 2012, 01:00

The HSE’s national director of children and family services remains “unconvinced” that social care resources are being used to the best degree possible, the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children heard today.

Gordon Jeyes was speaking in front of the committee as part of a series of committee meetings to discuss the Draft Heads of Children First Bill 2012, which would see the introduction of a legislative framework, obliging named professionals and organisations to comply with sections of Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children, 2011.

Following questions posed by Fianna Fail TD Charlie McConalogue and Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin as to the impact that mandatory reporting would have on services Mr Jeyes said: “I remain unconvinced that we are using all our resources to the most effective use possible”.

"There is some sense that the distribution of social workers across the country is not terribly consistent," he said. "Clearly we have got to look at...the fair distribution of resources based on children’s population with an element for deprivation and taking account of rurality or sparsity," he said.

"I am deeply conscious that the system is under pressure but that does not mean to say the only solution to this is more resources, because I well understand the financial circumstances that we are in and it should lead to a debate about prioritization.

Mr Jeyes said the proposed legislation had to be considered in this context but added: “If there is a deep concern about a child’s welfare and a child’s need for protection, a child at risk of...harm then reporting that should absolutely not be negotiable so within the resources available that work has got to be prioritised.”

Mr Jeyes said that the timetable for the setting up the new Children and Family Support Agency, due to be in place by January 1st 2013 was a “daunting timetable” but said “the less risky course is to go quickly and let’s get on with this in taking this forward”.

“We need to make sure that responsibility begins in the family, is supported by the community and that the State comes in when necessary,” he said.

Meanwhile Helen Buckley, associate professor at the school of social work and social policy in Trinity College Dublin and chair of the National Child Death Review Panel, said that she was disappointed that the legislation “stops short of requiring an obligatory response from services beyond the reporting of suspected child abuse”.

“The most significant sections of Children First, which deal with the period post reporting, where multi agency assessment, case conferences, planning, intervening and onward safeguarding need to take place, will be left as they are, even though these are the elements of the child protection that have been shown to be the weakest.

“I strongly believe that positive and safe outcomes will not be achieved unless a comprehensive service is provided by all the organisations and institutions involved in the lives of children,” she said.