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23/09/2021

Damning report lists hundreds of suspected child abuse cases in Co Kildare

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Major concern is being voiced that hundreds of children at risk in Co Kildare are waiting for vital help from  Child and Family Agency Tusla. According to a report, there are 550 suspected cases of child abuse in Co Kildare and West Wicklow. These shocking statistics  were  given to SF Cllr Sorcha O'Neill as part of a Tusla report last May.  The suspected abuse contains complaints submitted by the Department of Education, some of these centre around physical and sexual abuse while others relate to domestic violence in the home. Cllr O'Neill is appealing with Kildare County Council to write a letter to Minister for Children and Youth Affairs James Reilly. She said: "This letter should ask why Kildare has been both under resourced and over looked, how they plan to address this inequality and corresponding timeline. There is a lack of resources in Tusla, they don't have enough staff to cope with the backlog." Last May, Deputy O'Neill asked Minister O'Reilly as to when he  expects to respond and allocate adequate resources to deal with the immediate crisis of more than 550 children on the waiting list for social worker support under the Children First guidelines in the Kildare and west Wicklow area. Minister O'Reilly said that he secured €1,027 million to support children and young people as part of Budget 2o15.  He added that the provision includes €992 million in current expenditure and €35 million in capital expenditure. He said : "The Estimate for 2015 contains significant additional resources to fund the services and programmes provided by Tusla - the Child and Family Agency. This amounts to €643 million, which accounts for 63% of the Vote allocation, and represents an increase of €34 million or 5% against the 2014 allocation. While I understand that this level of funding cannot address all of the challenges that the Agency faces in doing its work, I believe that the additional funding allows the Agency to alleviate the pressures on the range of services currently in place. It will also help Tusla to build on the extensive programme of reform across the range of services for children and young people, a process which is well underway.  Officials in my Department continue to closely monitor the cash position of Tusla and are working on an ongoing basis to monitor its financial requirement. Any discussions regarding additional resources for Tusla will take place in the context of the Estimates process." The Minister added that Tusla have advised that there were 1,425.02 whole time equivalent social workers employed at the end of April 2015 and that they are currently recruiting an additional 124 social workers to meet existing vacancies. He said: "While a zero rate of vacancies in this specialised area of work would be ideal, it is important to acknowledge that, as staffing vacancies arise for a variety of reasons, including retirements, career breaks, paid and unpaid leave (into meet existing vacancies. While a zero rate of vacancies in this specialised area of work would be ideal, it is important to acknowledge that, as staffing vacancies arise for a variety of reasons, including retirements, career breaks, paid and unpaid leave (including maternity and other family related leave) and resignations, in that context there will always be gaps in timing around the filling of posts. Every effort is being made by the Agency to speed up recruitment and develop a comprehensive workforce development plan in 2015 which will assist in addressing staff turnover rates and hopefully lower them further. The policy in place and utilised by Tusla states that all children coming into care, and those in high risk placements, have an allocated social worker. Maternity leave, vacancies and competing priorities all contribute to gaps in staffing, which can cause strain on the allocation of social workers. According to Tusla policy, where a child is awaiting the allocation of a social worker, they are responded to by a duty team on a risk management basis for any change incircumstances.  During this time, specific pieces of work on the child's case may be undertaken by staff working in the duty system. Also, structures are in place to regulate and inspect service provision, including the independent inspection regime of the Health Information and Quality Authority. I am satisfied that, overall, the necessary services and supports are in place to ensure the care and welfare of children in State care."  

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