More Families Seeking Help From Social Services

More than half of people being supported by social services voluntarily seek help, it emerged today.

As child protection and the role of the social worker goes under the spotlight at a one-day conference, experts revealed more and more families are coming forward for intervention.

Entitled ‘Child Protection and Welfare Social Work: A Changing Profession in a Changing Ireland’, the one-day event in University College Cork (UCC) will examine the current child protection system and the social and organisational contexts in which child protection services are provided.

There are more than 2,300 social workers practising in Ireland, with the majority employed with the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Eamonn Collier, Principal Social Worker with the HSE South, said although in the eyes of the public social workers are often perceived as unwelcome in the lives of others, families themselves are increasingly seeking support and intervention.

He said the sector has experienced unprecedented growth and investment in the last 15 years as the numbers of child abuse referrals and children in need of care rise.

 “Social workers are now actively engaged in preventative and welfare work, work that anticipates and avoids crisis and seeks to promote better outcomes for children,” he said.

“Unfortunately, little emphasis is placed on the significant level of preventative work that is undertaken by social work departments.

“In many HSE areas, over half the service users of social work departments voluntarily seek our help.”

Mr Collier said the discipline of social work is tasked by the state with the responsibility of responding to children and young people at risk of poor childhood outcomes as a result of abuse or neglect.

Additionally, he continued, the HSE is required to provide a range of interventions and family support measures where children and their families’ experience adversity, crisis, disadvantage, addiction and separation.

“Societal, demographic and legislative changes and indeed changes in the very nature of family-life and structure have had a significant impact on the delivery of child protection and welfare services in recent years and as a result the discipline of social work is undergoing a period of rapid change,” he added.

Jointly staged by UCC, the Irish Association of Social Workers, and HSE South, delegates will discuss recent developments in child protection and welfare and how child protection services can work together for the benefit of the child.

Keynote speakers include Professors from the UK and Dr Helen Buckley, of Trinity College Dublin, speaking on reflexivity and ambivalence in Irish protection work.