'Every child in care must have a social worker'
HUNDREDS of children in State care remain without an allocated social worker to look out for their needs.
Although there are 6,160 children in care, reaching an all time high, just 92.3pc have a social worker -- less than this time last year.
However, in some areas such as Kildare, Wicklow, Laois, Offaly and Dublin North West, more than one in three children in care are without an allocated social worker.
The target is for 100pc of children in care, either in residential facilities or foster homes, to have their own social worker.
The figures come in the wake of the recent report on the deaths of 196 children who were either in care or known to social services over a decade.
The lack of an allocated social worker was identified as one of the failures which was found in several of tragic cases.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) has suffered a fall in the number of social workers involved in child protection and welfare due mostly to early retirements.
Other vacancies have arisen due to social workers taking career breaks or opting for extended leave.
The state of HSE finances in the second half of last year also led to a virtual freeze on recruitment and this also affected social services.
All children in State care, whether they are in residential facilities or foster homes, should have their own social worker who is familiar with their case and will act with other agencies and areas of the health service on their behalf.
There were 1,197 social workers involved in the HSE's child and family services in March and efforts are now underway to recruit 57 social workers.
The Ryan Report recommended that additional social workers be hired, and their numbers were boosted by 263 but a lack of these professionals is continuing to impact on child care.
The figures released by the HSE also show that hundreds of children are also without written care plans, which are essential to ensure that their individual needs are set out and that failure to respond is being monitored.
The worst hit areas for lack of care plans also include Wicklow, Dublin West and Dublin North West, where nearly 40pc of children are deprived of this essential.
The new Child and Family Support Agency is due to take over the area of child welfare and protection from the HSE from January.
A number of senior posts for the new agency are to be created, but a key element of its success will be funding and the extent of this has yet to be revealed.
9 July 2012