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To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her views on reports that at least 200 social work posts are currently vacant even though there have been significant increases in the number of reports of children at risk of abuse or neglect; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  - Mick Wallace For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 12th February, 2014.

REPLY.

The staffing complement for the Child and Family Agency (CFA), which was established on 1 January, 2014 includes 1,385 social workers who transferred from the HSE. The complement was determined following a detailed census and re-classification process undertaken in 2013, through which social workers were formally assigned to particular care groups, including children and families. This work was necessary in order to prepare for the establishment of the new Agency and to allow for the transfer of designated staff.

Staffing vacancies arise for various reasons including retirements, resignations, career breaks and unpaid leave.  In addition, gaps in service cover arise where staff are on paid leave.  Social work staffing levels across the whole country are at 93% according to the CFA.   Vacancies are covered by temporary staff as required to ensure staffing levels do not fall to an unsafe level.  This is risk assessed by Area Managers.

Over the past 18 months a total of 153 social work posts have been filled. In addition to this, there are a further 181 posts in the process of being recruited.

23 of these have been offered and accepted positions and starting dates are being agreed;

6 offers have been made and are awaiting a response

The remaining 152 posts have been approved to be filled.  A recruitment campaign is already underway for 32 of these posts and a further offers/campaign for the remaining 120 is expected to start shortly

Budget 2014 included the provision of €6.7m (€12m in a full year) to support the continuing implementation of the reform programme across children and family services.  This additional funding will assist the CFA in meeting identified service pressures.  This will include the filling of social work vacancies taking account of identified need, with a particular focus this year on the filling of vacancies arising from maternity leave. The Agency is also finalising proposals, arising from the provision of this additional funding, for the introduction of a guaranteed and protected one year induction programme for newly qualified social workers.  The scheme will include protected workload and weekly tutorial/mentoring provision.

The initiatives described above will assist the CFA in responding to particular service pressures arising over the course of the year and allow for a targeted response to such pressures taking account of identified need and service priorities.

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