Big caseloads being juggled with little support

The social worker's view

HUGE, unmanageable caseloads and inconsistent support services beset child protection services over the past decade.

Most child protection social workers simply did not have the time to conduct proper assessments and draw up care plans for troubled children, as they attempted to tackle massive caseloads with little or no support.

Added to this, you often had a situation where vital ancillary services, such as psychiatry and child guidance services, were just not available.

Many of the children mentioned in the report were not in HSE care at the time of their death, although they were known to the services.

This points to a serious lack of support in the community, which would be required to provide these kids and their families with the intervention they needed in a timely fashion. Taking every vulnerable child into care is not the answer.

In every profession you have good practice and bad practice, but during the period referred to in the report the majority of social workers were not given the resources to safely manage their caseloads.

Often, relatively inexperienced staff were attempting to manage heavy caseloads of between 15 and 20 children, which made it impossible to provide adequate care.

We are still nowhere near the optimal ratio. Our numbers are still considerably less than those of the UK and Northern Ireland.

It is still at the discretion of the HSE as to whether a child is offered aftercare services when they leave state care. This should be a statutory requirement. Every child who was in state care should be offered aftercare services up to the age of 23.