I can confirm to the Deputy that my officials are currently engaging with stakeholders to identify opportunities for Tusla to influence the future supply of key personnel such as social workers.
In this context, on the 16th January, 2019 my officials facilitated the inaugural meeting of the High Level Social Work Education Stakeholders Group.
The meeting comprised of representatives from the HSE, Tusla, Solas, the Department of Education and Skills, the Technological Higher Education Authority (THEA), the Irish Universities Association (IUA) and the current social work course providers:
- National University of Ireland Galway;
- University College Cork;
- University College Dublin;
- Trinity College Dublin;
- Institute of Technology Sligo
- National University of Ireland Maynooth.
It is important to note that CORU is required to accredit courses for the education and training of all social workers, as well as registering individual social workers. Social workers are educated and registered as generic social workers, who may then apply to take up employment in specific areas such as child protection, probation, mental health and disability services. Accordingly, social workers are required to undertake at least two placements on a CORU accredited training course. The placement has to be supervised by a registered experienced social worker and a student is required to undertake at least one statutory placement (Tusla or Probation Services ) and to have experience of both adult and children's services. Students have to pass their placement in order to graduate.
At the January meeting, the colleges highlighted issues with securing social work student placements. Given the importance of placements, it was agreed at the meeting that the difficulty securing placements for social work students is a significant obstacle to the provision of any additional training places on existing courses. This is also an obstacle for the development of any entirely new courses and presents a significant draw on the colleges’ resources.
Accordingly, the group decided that the first priority to be examined will be social work student placements with a view to streamlining the process of securing statutory placements. A sub-group is currently being established to examine how to streamline and formalise student placements and the colleges have indicated this will enable them to provide additional training places on existing courses. The streamlining of placements is also essential before any entirely new courses can be developed.