Press Release

Hanafin highlights social work initiatives to address shortages

 

  • Additional 68 Social Workers Training Posts (From October 2001);
  • New social work practice placement co-ordinator to support additional training placements;
  • New senior social work practitioner posts (250) to support newly-qualified staff;
  • International recruitment drive for experienced social workers;
  • Social Work Forum examining workload management and working conditions of social workers.

Mary Hanafin T.D., Minister for Children, has today (Wednesday, August 1, 2001) highlighted a package of new initiatives to address the problem of staff shortages, particularly in the child care area.

“I am conscious of the difficulties in recruiting and retaining child care staff, and the increasing workload for existing staff. The creation of a proper career structure will help boost recruitment and retention of skilled staff and a number of initiatives are now underway,” Minister Hanafin said.

“These will result in significant improvements in working conditions for staff and a resulting improvement in services for children,” she added.

One of the key areas to address this is the agreement for an additional 68 social worker training posts to be phased in from October 2001. This number of additional training posts will remain in place for four years, after which the situation will be reviewed.

“High-quality practice placement opportunities are a critical feature at the core of professional social work training. Placement training constitutes approximately 50% of course time, and a new grade of Social Work Practice Placement Co-ordinator is being created in all health boards. This post will facilitate and support social workers in achieving the number of additional practice placements required for the new training posts,” said the Minister.

“Retention of experienced social workers, and supports for newly-qualified social workers in the area of child care, are also essential to the service – a new grade of senior social worker practitioner has been created to help address this,” she added.

Minister Hanafin said that 250 senior social worker practitioner posts are being created, and they will also have a key role in the mentoring of newly-qualified social workers. She also explained that an international recruitment drive to attract qualified social workers to Ireland is also underway at present, in partnership with the Social Work Qualifications Board (NSWQB) and the health boards.

“These developments are especially important when we consider that there are over 1,700 children currently awaiting social work services. The most recent information available from the Health Boards show that these children are awaiting a mix of services, ranging from foster care, adoption and child protection interventions.”

“However, it should be noted that all emergency referrals to health boards receive immediate attention and an initial assessment of concern is carried out in all cases within days of receipt of a child protection report. All emergency cases are assessed and allocated social workers immediately,” Minister Hanafin stressed.

The situation facing children who are assessed as non-emergency cases is that, due to shortages of qualified staff and resulting heavy caseloads on existing staff, they may have to wait for the allocation of a social worker to their case.

“In order to ensure a speedy response to children, we must have sufficient numbers of qualified and trained staff available. This is why I am encouraged by these developments,” explained the Minister.

“The protection and welfare of children can be greatly enhanced by employing greater numbers of well-qualified staff who recognise the needs of children and families,” concluded Minister Mary Hanafin T.D.