Tusla, the Child and Family Agency is the body responsible for child protection and welfare. Tusla has adopted Signs of Safety as the national approach to practice, as well as a standard business process that sets out timelines for responses to referrals and assessment of reported concerns. All cases where a child is deemed to be at immediate risk receive a same day response, and after hours and weekends there is an Out of Hours social work service available. Cases that cannot be allocated to a social worker following preliminary enquries are described as 'active on duty' and receive a service from the duty social work team until a specific social worker is allocated.
Tusla publishes monthly data on a range of metrics, including the waiting time for a case to be allocated to a social worker. Cases are prioritised as 'high', 'medium' or 'low' (it is important to note that priority level does not equate to the risk level of a case), and as of April 2019 there were 1,008 cases of 'high' priority awaiting allocation nationally . For context, there were 4,903 new referrals to child protection and welfare services in the same month.
Timely response to reported concerns is a key objective for Tusla, and my Department officials work closely with the senior management team to reduce waiting times, including through investment in partnership, prevention and family support services that provide for a community-led response to referrals that do not reach the threshold for a child protection or social-work led intervention.