Wednesday 26 July 2017

Midnight football games will keep teens out of trouble, says Tusla chief

Five-a-side midnight soccer matches in Scotland were among the community-based support measures that resulted in the number of young people causing mayhem on the streets
Five-a-side midnight soccer matches in Scotland were among the community-based support measures that resulted in the number of young people causing mayhem on the streets "going through the floor" (Stock picture)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Midnight football matches for teens could help prevent them getting into trouble and ending up in care, according to childcare experts.

The measure has already been successful in parts of Scotland, said Fred McBride, the recently appointed head of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

It could form part of a multi-agency range of supports for Irish children who are ending up in State care for the first time in their teens, he told a conference in Dublin yesterday.

Mr McBride's agency, which took over from the HSE in looking after the welfare of some of the country's most vulnerable children, is battling to win public confidence after years of high-profile failures ending in tragedy for young people.

He said the agency wanted to take a less paternalistic approach to families who needed help.

Tusla would be prepared to take risks to allow families build their own strengths.

Five-a-side midnight soccer matches in Scotland were among the community-based support measures that resulted in the number of young people causing mayhem on the streets "going through the floor".

Mr McBride also wants to end the practice of social workers carrying out too many "just in case" initial assessments of children who are referred to social services.

All children are screened, but there is not always a need to proceed to a next step of assessment. The case could be referred instead to a non-statutory welfare organisation like Barnardos, he told the annual meeting of the Children's Rights Alliance.

These needless assessments, partly driven by social workers' fears about being later held up to public scrutiny, are taking staff away from more pressing duties.

The number of children who had not been allocated a social worker had dropped by 44pc since January 2014, down from 9,500 to just 5,000, he said.

Meanwhile, the agency is attempting to hire 170 social workers this year.

Asked about the serious case in the Cork-Kerry region of a 19-year-old who was left in a foster family after allegations of sexual abuse were raised by a relative, he said it would be examined with HSE chief Tony O'Brien.

Irish Independent

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