Crisis in our child welfare

By david looby

Published 09/07/2016 | 00:00

A report into child protection and welfare services in the Wexford/Waterford district reveals how the region has the worst level of provision in a number of categories.

According to the latest Tusla Performance Data report, covering care for children and adolescents aged 0 to 17 years for the period from January 2015 to March 2016, the Wexford/Waterford district had the third highest rate of referrals per 10,000 population 0-17 years, (123 per 10,000).

The number of child welfare and child abuse referrals in the Wexford/Waterford district as of March 2016 was 867, the fourth highest nationally. The national figures show that just over half of cases do not require further 'actions'.

The Wexford/Waterford district had the greatest fall off in cover for children in care with an allocated social worker. In March 2015, 424 children out of 447 had a social worker, compared to 390 out of 438 in March of this year.

The areas with the highest number of children awaiting an allocated social worker is the MidWest followed by Dublin South West/Kildare/West Wicklow, Dublin North City and Wexford/Waterford.

The total number of referrals was 3,954 in 2014, down 492 referrals last year to 3,462. The district recorded the third highest rate of referrals nationally, (123 per 10,000), compared to a national average of 96 per 10,000.

At the end of March 2016, five out of 19 districts nationally areas met the target of 100 per cent of children in care with an allocated social worker. A further eight areas reported a percentage of 90 per cent or higher. Performance in Wexford/Waterford dropped six percentage points from 95 per cent to 89 per cent.

The district reported one of the highest increases in open, active cases nationally. Of the active abuse cases recorded, 67 out of 67 had a social worker appointed. 22 per cent of cases (15) were ongoing for over one year, while 25 per cent (17) were active between seven and 12 months and 52 per cent (35) were active from 0 to six months.

The district had the sixth highest number of children in care in March, 438.

In October 2015 24 children and adolescents were in private home placements but by March 2016, 31 children were staying in private homes.

The county had the greatest fall off nationally, down 6 per cent between December 2015 and March in terms of the number of children in care who have been allocated a social workers. In March 390 of the 438 children and adolescents in care were assigned a social worker. The Tusla figures show that almost all of the 438 children had a written care plan.

The Wexford/Waterford district had the greatest drop out rate from secondary school for the Leaving Certificate between December and March. The number of teenagers aged between 16 and 17 who stopped attending school while in care fell from 77 out of 78 in December to 71 out of 77 in March. A very high rate of 99 per cent of children aged between four and 15 were attending school while in care up to March.

Only 27 per cent of teenagers aged 16 and 17 in care in the district had a leaving care and after care plan in place in December, down four per cent from December 2015.

Only 21 out of 77 teenagers in this category had an after care worker allocated to the in March, down six per cent on December's figures.

All nine children and adolescents discharged from the service in the 15-month period had an aftercare worker.

361 children and teenagers were approved for foster care in the district and in all cases where deemed necessary a social worker was appointed.

The number of social workers in employment in the Wexford/Waterford district increased from 82.91 in January 2015 to 89.24 in March. At the end of March there was 1,503.7 whole time equivalent (WTE) social work staff

(all grades and excluding agency staff) employed by Tusla nationally; an increase of 101.9 on the

number reported at the end of December.

The number of preliminary enquiries completed and seen within 24 hours of receipt of referral in the district in 2015 was 1,304, or 41 per cent.

The number of initial assessments completed within 21 days was among the lowest nationally, at 8 per cent (106 cases).

28 children were in residential care in the district in March, 313 were in foster home care and 95 children and adolescents were in foster care with a relative. Two were in 'other care'.

Dublin South West/Kildare/West Wicklow had the highest number of private foster carers approved and on the panel at 92, followed by Dublin North at 33 and Wexford/Waterford and Cork, both with 28. Thirteen areas reported a decrease in the number of foster carers awaiting an allocated social worker from December; the highest decrease was reported by Wexford/Waterford (down 47).

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