117. Increase the number of social workers

Just how bad do things have to get before Child Protection is taken seriously in Ireland? It seems no matter what scandal unfolds, we spend loads of money trying to find out what went wrong and creating new guidelines for people working with young people.

Yes, it’s the usual story with Tusla. Their answer to everything appears to be creating as much paperwork as possible in order to solve a problem. The increased paperwork itself doesn’t solve any problems but it gives someone a job of filtering through the paperwork instead of actually solving the problem and working directly with children at risk of harm.

Because schools seem to now be at the mercy of Tusla’s ridiculous paper-trail exercises, this article, I feel, belongs in this series of suggestions to improve the education system. 

Only as of January 2019, schools now have to fill in a 65 piece checklist for their Child Protection policy. As Sheila Nunan (INTO head honcho) said, not one child in Ireland will be safer as a result of this extra paperwork. I imagine Sheila and I would agree that having more social workers working directly with children as early as possible would be of much more benefit.

Here’s my suggestion to Tusla. It’s the same suggestion I have for their efforts to improve attendance and improve school retention. Stop with the excessive paperwork and start hiring more people to deal with the problems. We desperately need more social workers. We do not need layers upon layers of bureaucracy before things get to a social worker.

One example of an unnecessary layer is Meitheal, a sort of “buffer” for families that require support but don’t somehow qualify for social work support. To me, Meitheal is pretty much the same thing as social work, except it has a less threatening name. I’ve suggested it many times to families in my job and it gets exactly the same reaction as to when I’m referring any family to Tusla.

As a DLP (Designated Liaison Person) in my organisation, if I feel a child is at risk from harm, my only agenda is to get him/her help as quickly as possible. I want to be able to pick up the phone or fill in a quick form on a website and a social worker should do the rest. I can see myself slowly but surely becoming yet another layer or buffer in another Tusla-led system. We need more social workers on the ground and we need them now.

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