5,000 children left without a social worker
A national shortage is leaving vulnerable children without social workers, it has emerged.
The Child and Family Agency (Tusla) said over 5,000 unallocated cases are awaiting a social worker because of a need for "200 to 280 extra social workers to meet current demand".
Tusla Chief Executive Gordon Jeyes told the Committee on Health and Children that a new out-of-hours social worker programme is due to be rolled out by the agency this September.
It will be accompanied by an update of the Child Protection Notification system whereby gardaí and emergency services will now be able to access the records of vulnerable children.
"It is a major step forward including the database of all children who are in the national child protection system," said Mr Jeyes.
"Technical issues to do with security have been addressed. The child protection notification system will now be accessible to gardaí and emergency medical services on a 24/7 basis, also due to go live in autumn."
Elsewhere, Mr Jeyes said steps have been taken since Tusla was forced to investigate a disclosure that hundreds of files went missing in Laois and Offaly.
"People are being held to account," said Mr Jeyes.
"We believe in high support and rigorous challenge. I have worked with groups of staff where disciplinary procedures have been put aside if people are prepared to engage with deep learning and acknowledge and sign up for responsibility and what went wrong."
Tusla was previously criticised for the competence of its IT systems since been formed 18 months ago.
"A number of concerns were raised on Tusla's systems, including their reliance on an antiquated IT system and the lack of a centralised database," said the committee Chairman Jerry Buttimer.
However, despite the upgrades, Mr Jeyes said that additional funding was required so Tulsa could maintain the level it is currently at.
"We are talking about €25m or so merely to keep pace with where we are," he said.
"There is insufficient capacity to do what is expected of us."