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 new Child and Family Agency 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 targeted recruitment of graduate social workers. This initiative will involve the introduction of a guaranteed and protected induction programme for newly qualified social workers. Discussions with IMPACT and other parties are ongoing and the merits of the scheme will be clear when the details are finalised.
It is my view that the scheme will not discriminate against new graduates as it is being designed to create a stable and protected initial environment within which newly qualified graduate social workers can hone their skills in practice. The scheme will include protected workload as well as weekly tutorial and mentoring provision and therefore does not constitute equal workloads to that of staff who are social workers with more experience and have a larger number of caseloads to manage.
Full details of the scheme will be published after discussions with the trade unions have been completed.