Social worker shortage threatens new Children and Families Agency, says IMPACT

25% of posts unfilled in one region

Thursday 9th May 2013

IMPACT trade union today (Thursday) called on Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald to take urgent action to address a shortage of social workers, which the union says is undermining the State’s statutory obligation to protect children and threatens to thwart the effectiveness of the new Children and Families Agency.

Speaking at IMPACT’s Health and Welfare conference in Portlaoise, IMPACT official Christina Carney said there were currently 350 social worker vacancies across the country. In one region, a quarter of social work posts are unfilled. The shortfall is primarily a result of unfilled vacancies and maternity leave.

Ms Carney called on Minister Fitzgerald to accelerate recruitment to vacant posts and immediately establish an emergency relief panel with a view to filling maternity leave positions. “The situation is now becoming unsafe. I am calling on the minister to use her authority to find an urgent solution. Social workers, social care workers and other staff want to make the new agency work, but they cannot keep going in circumstances where 20-25% of approved social posts are unfilled,” she said.

The conference passed motions calling for the filling of social work, social care and administrative posts before the new agency is formally established.

Ms Carney said: “IMPACT has taken a very positive and constructive approach to the establishment of the new Children and Family Agency. Our support is based on the clear expectation that services to children and families will get better with the establishment of the new agency, and that there will be unambiguous and transparent policies and procedures which would serve the child. But our support is conditional on the Agency being properly resourced.”