Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Questions (603, 604, 605)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

603. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the date on which all social worker vacancies will be filled. [5631/14]

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Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

604. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of social workers on long-term sick leave broken down by county; and the number of same who have been replaced by a temporary worker. [5632/14]

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Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

605. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of social workers employed by the new Child and Family Agency broken down by county; and the number of vacant social worker posts broken down by county. [5686/14]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 603 to 605, inclusive, together.

The staffing complement for the Child and Family Agency (CFA), which was established on 1 January, 2014 includes 1,385 social workers who transferred from the HSE. The complement was determined following a detailed census and re-classification process undertaken in 2013, through which social workers were formally assigned to particular care groups, including children and families. This work was necessary in order to prepare for the establishment of the new Agency and to allow for the transfer of designated staff.

Staffing vacancies arise for various reasons including retirements, resignations, career breaks and unpaid leave. In addition, gaps in service cover arise where staff are on paid leave. Social work staffing levels across the whole country are at 93% according to the CFA. This reduces to 84.3% when maternity leave is included. Vacancies are covered by temporary staff as required to ensure staffing levels do not fall to an unsafe level. This is risk assessed by Area Managers.

Over the past 18 months a total of 138 social work posts have been filled. In addition to this, there are a further 196 posts in the process of being recruited.

- 23 of these have been offered and accepted positions and starting dates are being agreed;

- 6 offers have been made and are awaiting a response; and

- the remaining 167 posts have been approved to be filled. A recruitment campaign is already underway for 32 of these posts and a further campaign for the remaining 135 is expected to start shortly.

Budget 2014 included the provision of €6.7m (€12m in a full year) to support the continuing implementation of the reform programme across children and family services. This additional funding will assist the CFA in meeting identified service pressures. This will include the filling of social work vacancies taking account of identified need, with a particular focus this year on the filling of vacancies arising from maternity leave. The Agency is also finalising proposals, arising from the provision of this additional funding, for the introduction of a guaranteed and protected one year induction programme for newly qualified social workers. The scheme will include protected workload and weekly tutorial/mentoring provision.

The initiatives described above will assist the CFA in responding to particular service pressures arising over the course of the year and allow for a targeted response to such pressures taking account of identified need and service priorities. The additional information requested by the Deputy on a county by county basis in respect of social workers (numbers employed, number of vacant posts, those on long term sick leave and those replaced by a temporary worker) has been requested from the Child and Family Agency and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.