260 ‘at risk’ children have no social worker

Social workers in Derry have never been in as high demand as the service currently faces. The Journal has learned that Children’s Services have over 260 families or children who have been identified as ‘at risk’ yet no social worker has been allocated.

In a statement to the Journal the Western Health and Social Care Trust confirmed the number as of the end of April 2009, though the Journal understands that this number has since risen to over 300.

The statement further added: “The Trust actively manages this list through regular assessment and prioritisation of urgent cases. If there is a risk of harm to a child, the case is allocated to a social worker immediately.”

The Journal has learned that a high level of staff turn over and high rates of sick leave due to ‘stress related issues’ are contributing to the problem.

A number of sources have described the situation as ‘unbearable’ and staff morale as ‘never having been worse.’

The Western Trust commented only: “We are recruiting additional temporary staff to our child care services to address the waiting list. The Trust is also in discussion with the Health and Social Care Board regarding the development of a permanent solution.”

Despite several requests to put someone forward for interview on the matter the Western Health Trust declined.