Almost 5,000 children referred to Tusla had no social worker by December

Agency’s annual report shows 48 young adults who had left care were homeless

Some 53,755 child protection and welfare cases were referred to Tusla last year. Photograph: Alan Betson

Some 53,755 child protection and welfare cases were referred to Tusla last year. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Almost 5,000 children at risk referred to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, last year had not been allocated a social worker by December, the agency’s 2017 annual report shows.

Published on Tuesday the report also shows of the 345 children in specialised residential care at the end of last year, three had no allocated social worker while 12 had no care plan.

In addition, of over 2,000 young adults who had left care and were availing of aftercare services last December, 48 were homeless.

Some 53,755 child protection and welfare cases were referred to Tusla last year, an increase of 13 per cent compared with 2016, according to the report .

By the end of the year its social work teams had 24,891 open cases and while 80 per cent of these (19,999) had an allocated social worker, 4,892 had not.

Though high, and despite the increase in referrals, it represents a 10 per cent fall in the number of unallocated cases compared with the end of 2016 when there were 5,435.

And it is a 50 per cent reduction on the 9,742 unallocated cases when the agency was established in 2014. Every child deemed at highest risk, on the child protection notification system, had an allocated social worker.

Foster care

At the end of last year there were 5,700 children in foster care, of who 29 per cent (1,660) were being fostered by relatives. Some 95 per cent of all children in care had an allocated social worker and 92 per cent had a care plan.

There were 345 children in residential care – representing six per cent of all children in care at the end of last year. These are children who “cannot live at home or in . . . foster care” and residential care “aims to provide a physically, emotionally and psychologically safe space, in a planned way, where children and young people can heal, develop and move forward in their lives”.

At the end of December 2017 three of them had no social worker and 12 had no care plan.

The report says over 2,000 (2,037) young adults – aged 18 to 22 - who had left State care were availing of aftercare services. Almost half (893) were still living with their foster carers and 10 per cent (196) had returned home. Some 26 per cent (510) had “moved to independent living”, five per cent (96) were in residential placement while two per cent (48) were in “supported lodgings” – ie homeless.

The agency had its highest number in almost a decade of separated children seeking asylum referred to it. There were 175 unaccompanied child referrals – the most since 2009 when there were 203.

Through last year 59 organisations providing services to victims of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, were supported. These include 22 emergency refuges or safe homes with 155 family units of accommodation, operating in 17 counties.

The agency conducted 152 assessments of potential adoptive parents last year. In addition it had 922 new applications from people seeking to trace either a biological parent or adult child following separation at birth by adoption. At the end of the year 729 people were awaiting a tracing service.

Tusla is the statutory lead agency in regulating early years’ services and education welfare services (EWS). Its EWS, which deals with families where children are missing a lot of school, worked with 3,522 new individual children in 2016/2017 academic year. It issued 721 school attendance notices and 156 court summonses to parents and guardians about their children’s poor school attendance.