herald

Tuesday 21 November 2017

'We don't have staff to deal with mandatory abuse reports' - Tusla

Tusla chief Fred McBride had serious concerns
Tusla chief Fred McBride had serious concerns

The Government is coming under pressure to increase its funding to Tusla after its chief executive said mandatory reporting would undo any progress made.

Fred McBride said the child and family agency did not have the staff or the money to deal with the expected increase in cases.

Opposition politicians yesterday slammed a "shortage" of money after it was revealed that teachers, nurses, social workers and others working with children could now face legal sanctions if they failed to alert authorities to suspected cases of child abuse.

This would cover assault, ill treatment, neglect and sexual abuse.

Documents released to RTE's This Week programme revealed that Mr McBride told the Department of Children and Youth Affairs that mandatory reporting would put so much pressure on its agency that it would reverse the progress made in dealing with social work waiting lists.

Mandatory reporting should not be introduced because it had been shown in some countries to be "counter-productive", he said.

"I have serious concerns regarding the commencement of the mandatory reporting aspect of the Children First Act," he said. Tusla requested €102m in funding for 2017 but received just €37m.

The Ombudsman for Children, Niall Muldoon, told This Week that the expected increase in child abuse cases made the introduction of the law even more urgent.

This was "to allow the voices of these young children to be heard so that appropriate help can be provided".

Anne Rabbitte, Fianna Fail spokesperson for children and youth affairs, said Tusla does not have the staff to do the work.

Suffer

"We've seen what happened in New Zealand when it was introduced - the amount of referrals doubled," she said.

"This is another classic example of the current Government being prepared to put a system in place before the funding and the people.

"Those who will suffer are the staff who are left to deliver it and the children themselves.

"Minister Zappone still has the opportunity in the upcoming budget to press for the funding to make sure it is delivered.

"The minister needs to decide if she is going to ring fence funding for mandatory reporting."

Sinn Fein children and youths affairs spokesman, Donnchadh O'Laoghaire, said mandatory reporting was central to the children-first approach adopted by the Government.

"We have long been critical of the under-resourcing of Tusla which manifests in the unallocated cases of high priority social work cases, and in the appalling lack of inspections of foster homes," he said.

"Tusla is dreadfully under-resourced and that cannot be disputed. However, Tusla and the Government cannot hide behind that.

"When we signed up to the children's referendum, we did so on the basis that children's welfare would be at the heart of all decisions.

"The Government must ensure the commitments of the children's referendum are lived up to."

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