Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 9 - Health service staff. [26267/11]

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 9 - Health service staff. [26267/11]. (03 Nov 2011)

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9. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs  her views on the social workers recruitment embargo and the impact it may have on the implementation of the recommendations in the Ryan Report;. [26267/11]

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: The Implementation Plan published on foot of the Ryan report committed to the recruitment of an additional 270 social workers. The first 200 of these posts were filled last year. The HSE national service plan includes financial provision of €3.8 million for the recruitment of a further 60 social workers this year. I have been assured by the HSE that it plans to have the 60 additional staff in place by the end of December. 

This question is effectively a repeat of a priority question tabled earlier by Deputy McConalogue.


Acting Chairman (Deputy Paudie Coffey):Has the Deputy a supplementary question?


Deputy Charlie McConalogue: It will allow me more time to deal with the issue, because we were short the last time.


In her earlier response, the Minister mentioned that as of 31 December 2011, there were 2,429 social workers employed in the HSE, and that four of the additional 60 to be recruited this year have been recruited so far. I put down a question the last day which specifically asked for the number of social workers in the HSE at 1 January 2011. She indicated to me before that 200 additional social workers had been employed last years and positions back filled. Can she provide the number of social workers employed on 1 January 2011?


Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: I will supply that figure to the Deputy. I have with me the figure for 31 September 2011, which was 2,429. Certain social work teams are under pressure. Every effort is being made to keep the compliment of social workers as high as possible. The 200 social workers promised in the Ryan report have been recruited. I have been assured that a further 60 will be recruited by the end of the year, and I will have funding for a further ten, which brings the number of social workers recruited to 270.


I think the point the Deputy is making is that the social work system is under pressure in various HSE areas. I have to agree with him. Over 25,000 cases have been referred this year, and that number is likely to go up. There are pressures on the system due to younger children coming into care where drugs and alcohol are an issue. There are 6,000 children in care. Clearly there are teams coping with a lot of pressures, and that is why I have spoken about the need for management and prioritisation of the cases that are being referred.


Deputy Charlie McConalogue: The figure for 1 January is critical if we are to assess where we are at the moment. There is no doubt that social workers are the bedrock of our child protection systems and our child services. They are under pressure because only four extra social workers have been recruited up to this point. Staff on maternity leave and temporary posts are not being refilled, which is putting massive pressure on the system. That is what is happening at the moment. What is the current set-up for maternity posts in social work teams and the replacement of temporary posts?


Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: As the Deputy knows, there has been a recruitment pause in the HSE and maternity posts are not being filled, which is having an impact. In that context, the recruitment of 270 social workers who have been exempted from the moratorium is important for child protection work, as recommended by the Ryan report. It is quite an achievement on the part of the HSE to have delivered 200 social workers, with 60 to be in place by the end of December and a further ten in January.


There is undoubtedly pressure in the system. I do not think a proper analysis has been done in the past of the number of cases and the required number of social workers; neither has proper management taken place with regard to data collection, as I have made clear this afternoon.

Other Questions - Health Service Staff
Thursday, 3 November 2011
Vol. 745 No. 3

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