Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Public Accounts Committee

2020 Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General
Tusla, the Child and Family Agency - Financial Statements 2020

9:30 am

Ms Kate Duggan:

We are very familiar with the Montague report. Our area manager in Dublin north city, Joy McGlynn, has been part of the inter-agency approach to that report in terms of its findings and recommendations. As the Deputy has rightly pointed out, Dublin north city is one of the areas where we are significantly challenged in the profile of children and families who require our support and the profile of children and young people who touch off our system in terms of either family support or the care system. The Deputy has also pointed out that Dublin north city has the highest number of children in care. It also has the highest number of community and voluntary services within that region. One of the areas we look at and focus on in Dublin north city is how to work much more collaboratively and work in partnership with our community and voluntary partners to respond to the need that is there.

Dublin north city, like the rest of the country, is challenged in terms of our ability to allocate an adequate number of social workers.

At the moment, the agency has a headcount of approximately 1,770 social workers. However, we have a number of vacancies and that is compounded by the approximately 70 staff who are on maternity leave and, in the context of Covid-19, for health and safety reasons,k those staff are often working away from the front line from the beginning of their pregnancy. Therefore, we are challenged our allocation of social workers across the country.

We are taking a number of actions. We have already spoken about the agency conversion programme that has happened. We are facilitating a number of student placements and our CEO is engaging with the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science in looking to increase the number of student placements. We offered a permanent contract to every new graduate who was qualifying from the universities this year. So far, out of 184 places in the universities, 130 individuals have expressed an interest in coming to work for Tusla. After qualification and interview, that has translated into securing 99 additional social workers for the whole of the country, whereas 89 social workers left the agency between January and July this year. Therefore, we are significantly challenged in our ability to allocate social workers. In 2021, out of additional Government funding of approximately €7 million, we allocated 65 new social work posts across the country, but the challenge remains. The solution is around working with partner agencies and diversifying our workforce. The Deputy talked about drugs and substance abuse issues and issues such as domestic violence in Dublin north city, and we are looking to diversify our workforce to meet that response.