Friday 16th August 2013
IMPACT has today (Thursday) called for the immediate recruitment of additional social workers in Kildare and West Wicklow to deal with an emerging crisis in services to children and families.
The union says that approximately 900 referrals of children are currently awaiting assessment in the area, including around 150 cases with potential child protection issues. Yet the failure to fill vacant posts and provide maternity leave cover means the Kildare and West Wicklow social work service is badly understaffed, with less than two-thirds of the approved social work compliment in place.
Meanwhile, the team responsible for the assessment and approval of potential foster families is at half its required strength, resulting in delays of two years or more.
IMPACT official Philip Mullen said his union was concerned that the acute shortage of social workers in the Kildare and West Wicklow area could lead to a crisis for children and families needing support. He said the area was particularly badly hit by management failures to fill social work vacancies. “Although social workers are not subject to the current HSE recruitment moratorium, large numbers of vacancies exist across the country, with Kildare and West Wicklow being particularly badly affected,” he said.
IMPACT has called on Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald to take urgent action to address the shortage of social workers, which the union says is undermining the State’s statutory obligation to protect children and the effectiveness of the new Children and Families Agency.
The union wants the minister to accelerate recruitment to vacant posts and immediately establish an emergency relief panel to fill maternity leave positions. “The situation is now becoming unsafe. I am calling on the minister to use her authority to find an urgent solution. We cannot keep going in circumstances where a third of the approved social work posts in Kildare and West Wicklow are unfilled,” said Mr Mullen.
IMPACT has welcomed the establishment of the Children and Family Agency, but has expressed concern that the continuing failure to provide the staff needed will negate any possible benefits. “If the staff needed are not in place, the children and families cannot be given the support they need and the Agency will be doomed to fail,” said Mr Mullen.