I acknowledge Deputy O'Sullivan's concerns.
Of course, I understand them. As I said, I am willing to engage should that be the decision of the Business Committee.
On the question the Deputy has put before me, as she is aware, I have placed a high priority on addressing the number of children who are without an allocated social worker. I secured additional funding for this purpose in 2017 and Tusla is now in its second year of a three-year plan to ensure a social worker is allocated to all children and young people who need one. In its 2017 business plan it identified additional funding of €2 million for the recruitment of more than 120 social workers to further reduce the number of unallocated cases.
The number of cases without an allocated social worker stood at 6,718 at the end of 2015. The figure at the end of 2016 was 5,413, representing a reduction of 19%, or 1,305, over the course of 2016. Cases to be allocated to a social worker include children known to Tusla whose social worker is no longer available to them, as well as children waiting to be allocated for the first time. All unallocated cases are assessed and prioritised according to risk. It will continue to be challenging to address the problem of unallocated cases, but we made good progress during 2016 and Tusla will continue to prioritise the issue in 2017.
I have provided Tusla with the necessary financial resources to tackle the problem. I secured additional funding of €37 million in 2017, bringing its overall allocation to more than €700 million.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
A key challenge to achieve our objectives will be the recruitment of sufficient social workers and other professional and supporting staff. Tusla is engaged in a major recruitment of social workers, social care workers and business support staff for this purpose. It is important to emphasise that, as Tusla's three-year plan to address unallocated cases continues, all urgent cases are dealt with immediately and prioritised, as required. These children do not simply go on a waiting list. My Department will continue to closely monitor progress in this regard. I attach a high priority to tackling this matter and will continue to engage directly with the Tusla board and senior management team over the course of the year to review progress.