The welfare and protection of children in this State continues to be a core priority of mine. I have secured a budget of over €786 million for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, which includes funding for the recruitment of more social workers and support staff for Tusla.
I can assure the Deputy that all referrals are screened when they are received. All urgent and emergency cases receive immediate attention by the local duty social work team. Other cases are referred to family support services or dealt with by child protection teams, as needed.
Once a referral has been screened, Tusla social work staff carry out a preliminary enquiry to determine the best course of action. The preliminary enquiry looks at all relevant information, and a decision is made on whether an immediate protective response is needed.
Tusla's goal is to complete all preliminary enquiries inside five days, and data on this metric is published on a quarterly basis.
I am very aware of cases awaiting allocation to a dedicated social worker. These cases are given appropriate attention by the duty team, which can include checking with professionals who see the child regularly, or visiting the child and family at home, getting additional information about the child's situation and in some instances, where a child is in care, organising a Care Plan Review and visiting the child.
One of the key challenges for Tusla in carrying out this important work is recruiting social work staff with the appropriate experience and qualifications. I can advise the Deputy that my officials are working with Tusla, and with the relevant educational bodies, to develop ways of increasing the number of training posts for social workers.