Social worker shortage delaying 5,000 cases, committee hears

Tusla head tells Oireachtas that Child and Family Agency needs 280 new employees

 Gordon Jeyes, chief executive of Tusla. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Gordon Jeyes, chief executive of Tusla. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

A shortage of social workers at Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, is delaying about 5,000 cases, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children has been told.

Chief executive of Tusla Gordon Jeyes told the committee he estimates that about 280 social workers are needed for the agency to function effectively.

Mr Jeyes said that more than 2,000 high priority cases are still waiting for a social worker.

He said that there is a lack of social workers in the country, with one for every 3,000 members of the population, which he said is three times less than the rate in Scotland.

Mr Jeyes also told the committee that Tusla had “inherited a broken IT system”, as the company has only two information technology staff for more than 4,000 employees.

Senator Jillian Van Turnhout questioned Mr Jeyes over the lack of psychological services in the agency.

He agreed that there “needs to be improved and enhanced services for disturbed young people that emanates very often in behaviour that is very hard to contain”.

The chief executive said the agency has made significant progress on the issues of transparency and accountability, but that “consistency remains more elusive”.

Mr Jeyes said issues in Laois-Offaly were “complex and many”, after it emerged in April that more than 1,000 files had not been processed.

He also said that issues in Louth-Meath were being addressed, following previous comments that the agency has concerns over “organisational structure, relationships and practice” there.

Out-of-hours service

The chief executive said an out-of-hours service will go live in the autumn, including a 24/7 phone line.

A text notification system accessible to An Garda Síochána and the emergency services will also be launched in the next few months.

He said the “pace of reform is inhibited” by a lack of funding, which he said is “necessary to move from establishment to sustainability”.

He said the agency, which was set up in January 2014, will need funding of €25 million “merely to keep pace”.

“We accepted the discipline of austerity, but investment is now required,” the chief executive said.