I can advise the Deputy that, at the end of December 2018, there were a total of 26,433 child protection cases open to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. Open cases are allocated to a social worker and assigned a priority level: high, medium or low. At the end of December, there were a total of 1,003 High Priority open cases, 3,296 at Medium Priority and 2,133 Low Priority awaiting allocation to a social worker.
I would like to remind the Deputy that high priority does not necessarily mean high risk, and that all urgent or high risk cases receive immediate attention. Identified cases that have not yet been allocated receive support and a service from Tusla's duty teams.
The transition to a single national agency responsible for the welfare and protection of children has not always been easy and work remains to be done. Challenges are ongoing in respect of the recruitment and retention of staff, the integration of key services for children and families and the vital cross agency working that allows for quick and effective responses to all the situations referred to or dealt with by Tusla. The development of a national child care information system, the NCCIS, will support social workers in the work and provide a more effective protective service. I am confident that Tusla is fully dedicated to meeting those challenges, and to continue to improve the service they deliver to the most vulnerable young people in our society.