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Tusla says 145 young people in emergency placements this week amid 'unprecedented demand'

It comes after a District Court judge expressed concern over children in such placements as a result of a lack of safe and appropriate places.

THE INTERIM CEO of Tusla has said that there were 145 young people in emergency placements this week.

On the day that Tusla published its annual report, Kate Duggan said the agency is seeing an “unprecedented demand” which is causing it significant challenges.

It comes after a District Court judge expressed his “utmost concern for the immediate predicament and welfare of children who are in care” following reports that there is a lack of available and appropriate placements for children.

In a letter included in the Child Law Project (CLP), Judge Dermot Simms drew attention to children in unsuitable emergency placements, as a result of the lack of safe and appropriate places, and called for “immediate and coordinated action” to remedy the current crisis.

These placements are often unregistered and do not have the same safeguards in place, such as inspections.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland this morning, Duggan said these placements were referred to as special emergency arrangements by Tusla and are used due to challenges “in relation to capacity”.

“This week, we would have had 145 young people in those special emergency arrangements. That would be 55 young people where they are known to us and where they’ve had to come in to a special emergency arrangement,” she said.

“Within that, about a third of those is where there was a breakdown in their home arrangement and a third where there has been a breakdown in a residential arrangement.”

She said the remaining 90 of those are separated children seeking international protection, where Tusla has an obligation to provide them with a place of safety when they arrive in Ireland. 

90% of those 145 young people are between the ages of 16 and 17, while three were under the age of 12. 

“Our sense within the agency is we recognise we need additional capacity within emergency arrangements. We recognise that there are young people whose needs are so complex that they are not able to remain in foster care. We recognise that there are so many young people whose needs are so complex, that mainstream residential units won’t meet those needs,” Duggan said.

“They need additional support. They need the wraparound services of mental health services of perhaps disability services or addiction services. But certainly we do not want to be in a situation – and that’s what we talk about when we talk about a crisis – that any child under 12 is in one of these arrangements.”


In its annual report, published today, Tusla highlighted there is a “risk to the Agency in failing to meet several requirements (care standards, procurement, finance) through the increasing use of unplanned emergency responses referred to as Special Emergency Arrangements”. 

The report outlined that a “Special Emergency Arrangements tracker” has been developed for reporting on a weekly basis.

It says that last year, there were 82,855 referrals to Child Protection and Welfare Services, a 13% increase on 2021.

There were 5,755 children in care at the end of 2022, 89% of whom were in foster care.

By the end of the year, 22,033 cases were open to social work nationally. Of those, 15,920 were allocated to a social worker, while the remaining 6,113 cases were awaiting allocation.

There were 813 admissions to care last year, with 666 children coming into care for the first time. Admissions to care were down 51 (6%) on 2021 (864), while 28 (4%) fewer children came into care for the first time.

“I think we absolutely have recognised the wider societal issues that are placing increased demands on our services in terms of homelessness, criminality, poverty, exploitation, and particularly in relation to global movement and the demand that that has placed on our services,” Duggan said.

She said that this year to date, there have been an additional 220 children who have arrived in Ireland on their own seeking international protection in the State.

Duggan said that of those children, 72 have arrived from Ukraine while the remaining 148 have arrived from other countries, such as Somalia and Afghanistan.

“Out of that number of 220, 72 of those are Ukrainian, the remaining 148 are from other countries such as Somalia, Afghanistan, and tonight we have an additional 256 separated young people in our care.

She said that Tusla is not failing in its role and that the annual report sets out clearly the “absolute improvement in the quality of service being provided”.

Speaking earlier this week, Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said Tusla saying that it is in crisis should stop the Government “in their tracks”.

He said it really drives home the point to him that the next Budget “absolutely has to be a Budget about children, about child welfare and about tackling child poverty.”

Duggan said the agency welcomes Harris’ comments and that it needs investment.

“That is investment in terms of our placement capacity, it’s investment for the community and voluntary sector, it’s further investment in the welfare and support services and certainly further investment in the wider therapeutic mental health disability services.

“What we want to see is children coming into care who need to come into care, receiving a high quality and timely service, but we also want to be able to better support children to remain at home and whether that’s that they need particular therapeutic services or their families and parents needs supports in relation to perhaps addiction or mental health, that those supports are there.”

She also said that there is a supply issue in Ireland in relation to the number of social workers that are qualifying from third level universities.

“This year, I understand that approximately 220 social workers graduating, 163 of those have been offered a permanent job in Tusla.

“We estimate that around 500 social workers need to be qualified every year to serve the requirement for that profession across sectors and Ireland.”

Duggan added that the agency currently needs 200 additional social workers in order to provide the services “that we would like”. 

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