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The ISPCC Warmly Welcomes Minister’s Announcements relating to Out of Hours Social Work Services

Jul, 2017
The ISPCC warmly welcomes Minister Zappone’s announcement, during her update to the Joint Committee of Children and Youth Affairs, of a plan to enhance the current out of hours social work provisions for children.
The new provisions, made in response to the concerns outlined in the audit by  Dr Geoffrey Shannon on the use by An Garda Síochána of their emergency powers where children are at risk will see the expansion of the out of hours social work service to include the following;
  • 24-hour on call support to foster carers
  • Extension of the on-call social work service so that a social worker will attend, in person, with the Gardaí where section 12 is invoked
  • Consolidation of the 3 current regional out of hours services into a single national one via a single Tusla out of hours contact number with additional staff
Interim CEO Caroline O’Sullivan “the ISPCC is encouraged to hear the plans outlined by the Minister today. They go some way towards providing what have been calling for, for over a decade. They will see the enhancement of support and protection to children nationwide and will assist An Garda Síochána in carrying out their duty. The presence of a social worker to meet the needs of children in these very difficult circumstances is central to ensuring the best interests of the child; and a joint approach by An Garda Síochána and Tusla will ensure that those with the appropriate skills and training are there to support and protect the child at this vulnerable time.
“We welcome the Minister’s statement that she is examining what further improvements are necessary to ensure we have a responsive, child friendly out of hours social work service. The Minister must seize the opportunity to provide for a directly accessible (by the public), comprehensive, needs-led, out of hours service – such as service should not be restricted to supporting Gardaí in removing a child under section 12. It should also provide support to families, as well as a social work-led out of hours child protection and welfare service for all children, not just those requiring removal under section 12 or those in the foster care system.
The ISPCC Childline service receives contacts from children needing protection/support daily; over 70 per cent of these calls are received out of hours. This is echoed by the findings in Dr. Shannon’s section 12 report which stated that over 70 per cent of section 12s took place out of hours. This indicates that children and families need support at these times.
“We need to ensure that children have the same level of protection and support whatever the time of day and this can only be achieved by the provision of comprehensive, seamless 24-hour services. This is something that is provided in other similar jurisdictions and children in Ireland deserve no less but the financial resources must be in place to enable Tusla to do this.