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Tusla will underspend its 2017 budget by €11.4m - here's why

The Child and Family Agency identified hiring and retaining staff, as well as reputational damage as challenges this year.

CHILD AND FAMILY agency Tusla are going to underspend its budget allocation for 2017 by €11.4 million.

In its 2018 Business Plan published today, it estimated that its total costs would amount to €258.8 million, which is below its budget allocation of €270.2 million.

It said that the savings were linked to ongoing problems in hiring and retaining staff at the agency:

“The forecast under spend arises from time-related saving due to the actual net new Whole Time Equivalent landing on payroll being lower than forecast in 2017.”

Despite the total underspend, it overspent its legal budget by €2.8 million. It spent €28.3 million on legal costs in 2017, with €1 million of this amount attributed to the ongoing Disclosures Tribunal.

Table costs Tusla Source: Tusla/Business Plan 2018

The agency has outlined one of its big problems for the year ahead a “failure to recruit and retain adequate numbers of staff”. It said that this was due to a limited pool of social worker available in Ireland.

Through market analysis, Tusla Recruit has developed an awareness of the limited number of social work students graduating each year. An approximate number of 240 students graduate with social work qualifications each year.

In the report, it said that it had the capacity to hire around 500 people in 2017, and to deliver its aim of hiring 870 people this year it would need additional resources.

It’s also aiming to improve its retention rates by 5% year-on-year, and increase the speed at which job applications are processed, with the vast majority to expect a response within 14 weeks.

Tulsa also had problems with retaining social work graduates for some of its core roles. To combat this, Tusla plans to target graduates in third level institutions in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Among other risks to the agency’s 2018 plans, it cited “reputational damage” due to “ineffective communications”, and pledged to develop and implement an internal and external communications strategy.

In the report’s foreword, CEO Fred McBride said that 2017 had “undoubtedly been the most challenging year yet faced by the agency, predominantly because of an unprecedented level of external scrutiny”.

He said that the agency had faced investigations and inspections  in 2017 by organisations including health regulator Hiqa, the Disclosures Tribunal, the Data Commissioner and the Ombudsman for Children. It also appeared numerous times before the Public Accounts Committee and the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs.

The impact of this scrutiny on the Agency’s capacity to maintain business as usual services while addressing the demands of the various inquiries cannot be understated, as it drew significantly on frontline child protection services and core supporting resources.

You can read Tusla’s Business Plan for 2018 here. 

Read: Dept of Justice had ‘shortcomings’ but ‘did not deliberately conceal’ emails from Disclosures Tribunal

Read: Two young children in care report sexual abuse by 11 people including their parents

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