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Staff shortages partly blamed for Tusla’s failure to report more than 300 cases of suspected child abuse

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It emerged this year that Tusla had failed to refer 365 cases of suspected child abuse in the Kerry area to gardaí. Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari/Chameleons Eye

It emerged this year that Tusla had failed to refer 365 cases of suspected child abuse in the Kerry area to gardaí. Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari/Chameleons Eye

It emerged this year that Tusla had failed to refer 365 cases of suspected child abuse in the Kerry area to gardaí. Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari/Chameleons Eye

Staff shortages were partly to blame for Tusla failing to report over 300 cases of suspected child abuse in Kerry to the gardaí.

Officials from the State’s child and family agency told an Oireachtas committee that a nationwide audit found another 200 cases of suspected abuse which were not referred to authorities in a “timely way.”

Tusla said social workers had “different interpretations” of when they should report suspected child abuse to the gardaí, but it had now issued new guidance to staff.

It emerged this year that Tusla had failed to refer 365 cases of suspected child abuse in the Kerry area to gardaí. The figure included 122 current cases and 243 retrospective cases. Tusla carried out a national audit and found that 13pc of 1,535 suspected cases over an 18-month period had also not been reported.

Kate Duggan, the director of services and integration, said that when Tusla examined what issues had contributed to the failure to report “one of them was staffing”.

Ms Duggan said there was also inconsistency among social workers in terms of when they should report to gardaí.

“That can also be to do with the level of experience of social workers,” she said.

Bernard Gloster, chief executive of Tusla, told the same committee that the current structure and organisation of Tusla was “not good,” and that the State agency’s board was seriously concerned about the pace of reform of governance structures.

Mr Gloster raised concerns about the impact of Covid-19 on child protection. Tusla experienced a drop in referrals for child protection and welfare services at the start of the pandemic, from an average of about 1,500 per week to 960.

Mr Gloster said Covid-19 had created a challenge in maintaining contact with children.

He added that Tusla was still “some way off” having a satisfactory response to GDPR concerns. Tusla has suffered more than 200 data breaches in just over 18 months.

 
The Government is planning to give Tusla a database of information about women and children who passed through mother and baby homes, despite survivors of institutional abuse criticising Tusla’s transparency.

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