Friday 23 February 2018

Head of social workers group ‘not sure’ if new child abuse laws beneficial due to lack of resources

Brian O'Reilly

Brian O'Reilly

THE chairperson of the IrIsh Association of Social Workers Ineke Durville has expressed concern that new child abuse laws will not be effective due to lack of resources.

The government has introduced legislation obliging anyone working with children who suspects abuse is being carried out to report it.

“It’s very early days to know how it will be different. Except to say the working load of social workers in this area is already very large”, she told RTE’s Morning Ireland.

Despite new people being brought in to the sector, there is still a high turnover.

“In reality, new people do come in, but al lot of people go very quickly, so there is a constant turnover of social workers, which has proved to be very difficult to fill”, she said.

Countries which have introduced similar legislation have seen a spike in the number of reports of abuse – however Ms Durville warned that a lack of resources in the sector could mean any benefit of the legislation is lost.

“The number of referrals went up hugely. In a service which is already overloaded in Ireland I’m not sure if that would be of benefit to children.”

She also questioned what the definition of abuse would be under the legislation.

“What is a suspicion of abuse? Does it mean if someone sees somebody give a child a slap is that serious abuse? Will there be a full investigation? Does it need to be referred?

“Up until now people have made judgements around some of those things. Now I’m not saying it’s always right to do those things, we need to be aware that we have a very overstretched system as it is, so it does need proper resources.

She called for an increase in social worker numbers, adding that Ireland currently has a third of internationally recommended levels.

“I think it’s very difficult to get a number. The reality of it is we are at one third of the numbers of international levels.

“I think it needs to be borne in mind that we’re trying to do something with a service which is under resourced.

“None of us are saying it’s not a good ambition to have this type of very comprehensive service. The problem is in the present climate it’s very difficult to achieve.”

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