Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 24 November 2020
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs
Foster Care and Complaints Process: Tusla
Ms Kate Duggan:
I thank the Deputy for his questions. I will deal with two aspects regarding the unallocated cases and the provision regarding domestic, sexual and gender based violence, DSGBV, services. As the Deputy said, the number of unallocated cases remains a concern for us. However, 94% of children in care have an allocated social worker and 75% of other children in care also have an allocated social worker. Of those who are awaiting allocation, 44% of them are active on duty. That means - to return to the Deputy's reference to the risk of harm or of abuse that may be in place - actions are being undertaken for those children's care by a dedicated duty team, social workers or by a rotating social worker off the roster. It is a significant challenge for us. It is one on which we have put a significant focus. Certainly, since I joined the agency in August it has been a priority for me. Since January to date, there has been a 31% decrease but, as the Deputy said, there are a number of areas with respect to Dublin-South-West, Kildare-west Wicklow and Dublin South-Central where it still remains a problem for us. That is linked to a number of factors, including increased referral and the staffing rates within those areas. Towards the end of the year we allocated initial once-off funding of about €150,000 and have taken in additional staff to address that need. Regarding additional resources in the allocation for 2021, the chief executive officer, CEO, might deal with that. Our focus will be on those specific areas where the unallocated cases are a problem for us. I reassure the Deputy those children who may not have a dedicated named social worker are actively being managed by the social work service within the Department.
Regarding DSGBV services, we all share the concerns in the demand we have seen for them in the context of Covid-19 and throughout the pandemic since March. In terms of our services, I will leave it to the CEO to talk about the additional funding in the 2021 budget. However, directly in respect of Covid, Tusla funds 60 agencies currently across Ireland to provide DSGBV services. In terms of the accommodation we support, currently there are 143 accommodation units open, 103 of which are our normal units. As the Deputy said, with the impact of Covid, there has been a reduction in about 36 with respect to social distancing and staffing. There are 103 of the original 139 allocation. We have funded 25 additional off-site units and an additional 15 safe homes. The capacity currently is for 143 units and 106 of those are currently occupied. Certainly we do share the concern about access being an issue, particularly in certain parts of the country. We have commissioned an accommodation review which Tusla is undertaking, which will be finished in quarter 2 of 2021. It will map out the existing accommodation units that are available in terms of geographical location and the type of service they offer, also identifying, as part of that, the future requirements, including the service model, as we move beyond 2021. I will defer to the CEO to deal with the additional budget.