€40m boost to Tusla to help it deal with mandatory reporting change

Zappone says coping with mandatory reporting will be a challenge, but the time is right

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone: Challenge. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone: Challenge. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

 

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency says it cannot “be precise” on how mandatory reporting of child abuse concerns, which comes into force on December 11th, will impact on its workload.

Its budget next year will increase €40 million to €753 million, which Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said would allow it to recruit an additional 300 staff to prepare it for mandatory reporting. Of these, about 185 will be social workers with the others working in such support areas as IT.

When the chief executive of Tusla, Fred McBride, was asked at the Budget 2018 press conference what impact mandatory reporting would have, he said: “It’s difficult to be precise about it but we have been preparing for this for some time, and have made a business case to Government on the basis of a number of scenarios and comparisons with comparable jurisdictions”.

He said mandatory reporting would not be entirely new, given that under Children First guidelines professionals had a responsibility to report child abuse concerns. He said there had been a 10 per cent increase in reporting “as it is” in recent years.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said Government was “not under any illusion but that this is going to be a challenge, but it is time to do it”.

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, while welcoming the additional funding for Tusla, was concerned that it remained unclear whether the promised expansion in the out-of-hours social work service would be simply a phone line, or whether social workers would be available on a 24-hours’ per day basis across the State. Currently such a service exists in Dublin and Cork city only.

Acting chief executive, Caroline O’Sullivan, said: “The detail is not yet available. The ISPCC is clear – and there is much evidence to support this, including the special rapporteur’s recent report on Garda out-of-hours powers – that a comprehensive out-of-hours social work service that is directly accessible to children and to families is essential to a robust child protection system.

“We look forward to working in partnership with the DCYA [Department of Children and Youth Affairs] and Tusla to ensure the additional funds are used to address the gaps in the emergency supports available, as well as to enhance the preventative services.”