Social Workers Demand Better Child Support

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has told the Dáil that new Minister for Children Barry Andrews will be following up with the HSE the findings of last night’s RTÉ Prime Time Investigates programme on children at risk.

The programme highlighted the impact of a recruitment embargo and employment controls on the services available for children and young people at risk of abuse in Ireland.

The HSE has said the programme was ‘limited and partial in its analysis’.

Director of Child Care Services Aidan Waterstone said the HSE was reviewing the programme and will be following up on any issues that need to be addressed.

Mr Waterstone also reassured the public that HSE family services were working effectively.

Fine Gael’s Alan Shatter earlier called for details of the number of children at ‘serious risk’ who are currently on waiting lists to be published immediately.

He warned that children would continue to lose their lives or suffer long-term damage unless immediate action was taken by the Government and the HSE.

Social workers issued a set of demands regarding child protection services following the RTÉ broadcast.

Responding to the programme, the Irish Association of Social Workers said its members were concerned, angered and frustrated that the public’s right to an effective child protection and community care service was being infringed.

The group said it had already warned that children are at huge risk because of HSE failures.

It said the programme drew attention to the ‘stark realities faced by social workers and by families attempting to access social work services in Ireland’.

The IASW claimed that many social workers are experiencing stress, burnout and exhaustion as they struggle to respond to an ever-increasing need with inadequate resources.

The association has called on the Government and the HSE to act immediately to lift the current employment controls on social work posts, and to fully resource community care social work teams throughout the country.

It has also called for an end to waiting lists of over a year for access to child mental health services and family support services.

Child protection ‘at bottom of the list’

Association spokesman Declan Coogan said it seems the protection of children is at the bottom of the list of priorities of those who make decisions about funding.

‘Children at risk of abuse and neglect are among the most vulnerable group in our society yet, judging by the lack of provision of funding for community care social work services, little consideration is given to their welfare,’ he added.

‘We demand that the HSE fully resource community care social work child protection and welfare teams and fully resource community mental health services.

‘No child should have to wait for essential social work and therapy services because someone somewhere has said there is no money,’ Mr Coogan said.

‘It seems that the protection of children is at the bottom of the list of priorities of those who make decisions about funding but are remote from the consequences of these decisions’, he continued.