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Concerns raised over staffing at new Child and Family Agency

The Children’s Right’s Alliance has said staffing issues around social workers and public health nurses need to be addressed.

Image: Edmond Terakopian/PA Wire

THE CHAIR OF the new Child and Family Agency has said that they will review staffing resources in the face of charges that it is not being given enough staff.

The agency officially came into force yesterday and is the largest public body in the sate comprising 4,000 staff and an operational budget of approximately €600m.

The Children’s Rights Alliance has welcomed the establishment of the agency but its chief executive Tanya Ward said that a number of issues needed to be “ironed out”.

“These include the carry-over of a deficit from the HSE into the new agency, ” she explains. “We are also concerned that social workers who are the backbone of the child protection system are not being replaced when they go on maternity leave, placing even greater pressure on an already stressed system.”

Worries have also been raised that public health nurses and child psychologists are not being brought into the remit of the new agency.

But speaking, today on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme, the Child and Family Agency’s chairperson Norah Gibbons says that these issues will be looked at :

We would very much have recommended and I very much believe that public health nurses should be part of the agency. However we looked at a number of areas and we felt that we needed to do this in a stepped approach. I would hope that in the agency we would have access to the quantum of public health nurses that we require and I think we will be keeping that in review.

“In time if we say ‘the agency needs its own public health services’ we will look to that but I am very conscious of the public finances and the other responsibilities that public health nurses have,” she added.

When questioned about Ward’s concerns about social workers on maternity leave not being replaced, Gibbons responded that, at present, provisions are not in place for this but said that the agency has just been established.

Child protection and welfare services previously with HSE  as well as family resources centres the national education welfare board will be transferred to a new agency and Gibbons explains that this interaction makes sense.

“The state never face just one difficulty, it’s often a combination of things and we think having these three together plus our colleagues in the community and voluntary sector we’re well placed,” she said.

Read: State agency for children to be debated by Oireachtas >

Read: Silent protest outside Dáil today over childrens’ cochlear implants funding >

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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