The Child and Family Agency compiles monthly performance reports which include statistics in relation to children in care. These reports are published on the Agency's website. The latest report published in February 2014 shows that the majority of the 6,489 children in care had an allocated social worker (92.2%) and an up to date written care plan (87.5%). Of the children in care, 505 (7.8%) were without an allocated social worker and 811(12.5%) did not have an up to date written care plan. It is important to note that statistics on written care plans may refer to those that have not been revised in line with specified time frames outlined in the Child Care Regulations 1995. This means that in some cases social workers have developed written care plans in consultation with children in care and their families but they need to be updated in line with the Regulations.
Of course, the legislative framework requires that all children in care should have an allocated social worker and written care plan and I am confident that the Child and Family Agency is working towards this goal. The Agency has advised my Department that a number of factors impact on the Agency's ability to allocate a social worker to children in care and ensure children in care have written care plans including vacancies and staff absences due to maternity leave. However, I am advised that a number of social worker posts have been approved for filling and are currently being processed as a priority by the National Recruitment Service. Also, outstanding children in care reviews and care plans have been prioritised for completion and social work staff have been reassigned to undertake this work.
There was an increase of 583 children in care between January 2011 and January 2014:
- In January 2011, 94% of the 5,907 children in care had an allocated social worker and 90% had an up to date written care plan.
- 371 children did not have an allocated social worker (6%) and 590 did not have a written or revised care plan (10%).
- In January 2014, 92% of the 6,490 children in care had an allocated social worker and 86.8% had an up to date written care plan.
- 518 did not have allocated social worker (8%) and 855 did not have a written or revised care plan (13%).