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

Mr. Bernard Gloster:

That is a very fair observation. There are myriad reasons it is difficult to retain staff. We have invested a lot of energy this year in understanding fully the people who leave us with less than two years’ service and the people who leave with less than five years’ service, because it is in that band of years that the retention problem is. People who leave after five years tend to leave for probably more understandable reasons.

I would point to a couple of factors. First, pre-Covid, in Dublin city, in particular, it was difficult to attract social workers to come and stay. There are some very good social workers in Dublin and we are delighted they are with us. However, it is difficult to attract new social workers to come and stay given the cost of living and many different reasons, so that was one factor.

The other factor is there has been an increase among social work employers across the country in their demand for social workers. This year, 184 people came off the courses in Ireland and 144 of them had registered with CORU by September, which means 40 are probably thinking about travel or something like that and 144 are available. I could use every one of those and I did offer a job to every one of those who wanted a job. However, my colleagues in the health service are recruiting social workers, the Probation Service recruits social workers, the section 38 agencies across the disability sector recruit social workers, and so on. Social work has now become part of the multidisciplinary team in every health and social care context and that is a challenge for us.

There is no doubt that statutory child protection is considered to be one of the most hard-end areas of work to do. While that is not to undervalue the work of anybody else, it is considered to be one of the hardest areas of social work to do. I have said many times, including in my opening statement, that I think we have to move to a new model of multidisciplinary teams because there are lots of other disciplines and professions that could contribute.