HSE hires just 18 care staff despite Ryan vow
JUST 18 additional social workers have been employed since the publication of the Ryan Report one year ago, despite a pledge to boost numbers by 270.
There are now 2,157 social workers employed by the Health Service Executive (HSE), compared with 2,139 a year ago, new figures obtained by the Irish Independent show.
The HSE last night insisted the 2010 figure was "not complete" and blamed industrial action for its failure to collate the total number of social workers in HSE employment this year.
However, the figures will come as an embarrassment to Children's Minister Barry Andrews who earlier claimed "very substantial progress" had been made by the HSE in the recruitment of social workers.
"We should have the 200 (additional social workers) in place by the end of the year," he said. "I think that's the key to unlocking the serious problems we have in child protection services."
Last November Mr Andrews was assured by the HSE that it expected to have "in excess of 2,300 whole-time equivalent social workers in post by year end".
But the figures for 2009 -- which were compiled before the start of industrial action -- showed there were just 2,139 in place.
A recruitment drive is under way but it will be hampered by the fact that 45 social workers are due to retire this year.
The figures highlight the problems that exist when the Minister for Children's Office focuses on policy, but is reliant on the HSE to implement it.
The disappointing figures come on the eve of the first anniversary of the Ryan Report into the "systematic abuse" suffered by children at institutions run by religious orders.
A total of 99 "specific actions" were pledged on the back of the report, and yesterday eight charities banded together to pressurise the Government into implementing those recommendations more quickly.
They were disappointed with the progress to date but last night said they "wholeheartedly welcome" a pledge by Mr Andrews to hold a referendum on children's rights before the end of the year.
"I think it needs to happen as soon as possible but I think the wording has to be got right," the minister said.
He pointed out that it would not just cover the rights of children in care, but other areas including education and the juvenile justice system.
A memo is currently being prepared for the Government, which he hopes to have ready by the end of June.
"We've had this wording for three months and I think it's not unreasonable to say it'll take a little bit more time to get it right," he said.
"I'd like to do it (the referendum) this year but if not we'll do it next year."
Mr Andrews also clarified reports yesterday that stated that 16 out of a group of 201 children who had been in care have been interviewed, with a view to improving the service.
In fact, 16 consultations have taken place to date involving a total of 201 children.
Speaking at the launch of Saving Childhood Ryan, the heads of the eight charity organisations said there was no lack of policy, only a lack of implementation.
"We owe it not just to the children of the future but the survivors of today that the promises not be forgotten," said Fergus Finlay of Barnardos.
Jillian van Turnhout of the Children's Rights Alliance added: "It will be difficult and we will get things wrong but inaction is not acceptable."