Tusla reports increase in child protection referrals

Fewer than half ‘early years’ services inspected last year as 9% more cases reported

The annual report from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, shows there was a 9% increase in child protection referrals last year to 47,399.

The annual report from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, shows there was a 9% increase in child protection referrals last year to 47,399.

 

Fewer than half of all registered “early years” services, for children under the age of seven, were inspected last year according to figures published on Wednesday.

The annual report from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, also shows there was a nine per cent increase in child protection referrals last year – from 43,485 to 47,399 – compared with 2015 and a 19 per cent decrease in the number of unallocated cases – ie cases that have no social worker assigned to them.

A total of 19,087 (40 per cent) referrals were over child abuse concerns while 28,312 were due to welfare concerns (60 per cent).

Emotional abuse was the most common form of abuse reported (6,871 cases), accounting for 36 per cent. Neglect was the main feature of 25 per cent (4,724) of referrals, followed by physical assault in 23 per cent (4,450 cases), and sexual assault for 16 per cent (3,042) of referrals.

At the end of December 2016, some 5,413 cases were not yet allocated to a social worker – 19 per cent less than in December 2015 when there were 6,718, and 38 per cent less that in January 2014 when the agency was established and there were 8,685.

A total of 801 of those awaiting a social worker at the end of last year were “high priority”, though again this represents a reduction on the 999 at the end of 2015 and the 3,535 in January 2014.

At the end of last year there were 6,254 children in State care of which 93 per cent were in a “preferred foster care arrangement”. Some 92 per cent of these had an allocated social worker, and 94 per cent had a care plan – ahead of the 90 per cent target.

Five per cent of those children in care were in general residential care – services which may be provided by statutory, voluntary or private providers and inspected regularly by the health watchdog, Hiqa.

Tusla is also responsible for the registering and inspecting of preschools, play groups, nurseries and creches. Some 4,507 services were registered at the end of 2016, of which 44.5 per cent, or 2,008 were inspected.

Under its remit to provide domestic violence services the agency increased the number of emergency units for women and children fleeing violence, by six, bringing the total to 147 family units in 20 refuges across the State. There are also eight units in emergency safe houses.