Hundreds of staff needed for backlog of child protection cases

Report to Child and Family Agency warns of huge number of cases without social worker

Measuring the Pressure, an analysis of social services, says there are some 2,740 cases without a social worker classified as a “high priority”, indicating serious child protection concerns or other risks

Unpublished figures show more than 8,000 abuse, neglect and welfare concerns over children at risk are waiting to be allocated a social worker.

An internal report presented to the board of the Child and Family Agency last week says backlogs are so acute in some areas that hundreds of extra staff are needed to bring numbers back to "manageable" levels.

Measuring the Pressure, an analysis of social services, says there are some 2,740 cases without a social worker classified as a "high priority", indicating serious child protection concerns or other risks.

The volume of unallocated cases is particularly high in parts of Dublin, Cork, Wicklow, Kildare, Louth and Meath, records show, and is compounded by a lack of social work posts and delays filling vacancies.


More pressure

The report also warns that moves to introduce the mandatory reporting of child protection concerns may put the system under even more pressure.

The details have come to light just over a year since the agency was formally established to take over responsibility from the HSE for child and family services.

In a statement, the agency’s chief of operations, Fred McBride, said the report – which related to the third quarter of last year – show a reduction in high priority cases awaiting allocation. “This demonstrates that we are targeting available resources towards children who need it most,” Mr McBride said.

He also said new initiatives are under way aimed at reducing pressure on services such as limited caseloads for staff, the recruitment of 193 social work posts and other reforms to work practices.

Vulnerable people

Jennifer Gargan



, a support group for young people in care, said gaps identified in the report were having a major impact on vulnerable young people. She said not having a social worker and frequent turnover rates had a profound effect on children.

“Children need consistent relationships with social workers,” she said. “With this kind of pressure, social workers end up fire-fighting emergency cases and don’t have time for children with less serious issues.”

Dónal O’Malley of the Irish Association for Social Workers said: “The creation of the new agency has been an important milestone . . . But one year on, we need to see that it is properly resourced so social workers can do their jobs and provide safe and effective services and supports to families and children.”

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent