DÁIL PQ ON TUSLA

Tommy Broughan (Dublin Bay North, Independent)

58. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the quality control procedures in place in Tusla; the type of performance management and upskilling which takes place for persons working with vulnerable children; the workplace supports available to those working with vulnerable children and families; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

 

Tommy Broughan (Dublin Bay North, Independent)

We discussed Tusla earlier. My question arises from the 2018 annual report which was an interesting account of all the work done by the agency, particularly in respect of performance management, outputs and supports for a vital workforce in the public sector, particularly in the workplace learning and development programme.

 

Katherine Zappone (Dublin South West, Independent)

I know that the Deputy is aware Tuslas work with some of the most vulnerable children in our society. It is reasonable to expect this work to be of the highest standard. Tusla’s quality assurance directorate carries out a range of ongoing audit and monitoring exercises. This is done to ensure the child protection and welfare services are delivered in line with national standards and Tusla’s own operating procedures. In addition, HIQA inspects Tusla’s child protection services against standards and its inspection reports are published regularly.

Social workers and others working with vulnerable children also engage intensively with parents. Professional staff need to have considerable knowledge, competence and skills to engage fruitfully with adults who are experiencing difficulties such as addiction, mental health issues and domestic violence. It is also important that social workers fully understand the impact on children of such parental difficulties with child attachment, development, anxiety and behavioural problems.

Social workers benefit from workforce support with regular practice supervision and learning events that focus on complex cases. Tusla has developed an excellent online resource called Empowering Practitioners and Practice Initiative, EPPI, to support social workers. It provides summary research findings and best practice guidance across a range of subjects. They include more recent social concerns, including organised child sexual exploitation, the trafficking of children and cyberbullying. Child protection work is carried out in a highly pressurised environment, often with heavy case loads. It is crucial for Tusla to make sure staff are supported. With this in mind, a health well-being and employee assistance programme is available free of charge to all staff. Tusla has also committed to implementing a formal performance management development system, PMDS, with a focus on performance achievement for its staff.

I am reassured that research and exit interviews with child protection social workers consistently highlight the support social workers provide for each other and the importance of teamwork when dealing with difficult situations. I take the issue of quality performance management and workplace supports for professionals who work with vulnerable children very seriously.

 

Tommy Broughan (Dublin Bay North, Independent)

It is regrettable that during the period of five years the agency has not been able to meet its whole-time equivalent professional workforce targets. It has to deliver on the strategic workforce plan until the end of next year. I have raised the problem of the recruitment and retention of social workers previously with the Minister. In the budget the Minister received another 4% increase for the Department. Approximately half, or €814 million, I think represents a €29 million increase in Tusla’s budget. Some of the ambition was to reduce the number of unallocated cases to address cost pressures in residential care provision and so on. The Minister mentioned the pressures on the workforce. For example, in July 802 high priority cases, 2,813 medium priority cases and 1,818 low priority cases were awaiting allocation. The pressures the workforce is operating under because of those waiting lists are immense. What targets does the Minister have to ensure the strategic plan will be achieved?

 

Katherine Zappone (Dublin South West, Independent)

I presume the Deputy is referring to the strategic workforce development plan.

Tommy Broughan (Dublin Bay North, Independent)

Yes.

Katherine Zappone (Dublin South West, Independent)

The board and a sub-committee of the board of Tusla will oversee and monitor the plan, with my officials. They have identified a couple of things that will make the difference in increasing numbers. First, they have to focus on the importance of the mix of staff in order that Tusla will be in a position to hire some additional administrative staff, which it has done and will continue to do. It will ensure the mix also incorporates social care workers, with administrative and social workers, in order that social workers will be free to do work required of them. The other aspect on which they are focusing is retention. Tusla will be providing additional supports for employees to make it effectively an employment of choice.

 

Tommy Broughan (Dublin Bay North, Independent)

Tusla has produced a very interesting performance and activity dashboard. The last one I read was for July. It showed the backlogs of cases to be seen in the different areas, as well as outlining the immense workload of the agency. Is it the case that the workforce learning and development programme still needs additional resources to provide more supports for staff who carrying out this vital work daily for the nation? Does the strategic action plan recognise the needs of those doing the work this House has mandated should be done?

 

Katherine Zappone (Dublin South West, Independent)

As the Deputy indicated, the amount I was able to receive in the budget to increase Tusla’s resources was allocated within a very tight budgetary space. It was an important achievement to get that additional sum of money for Tusla. I am aware of ways in which it is examining the numbers and cost of the agency staff it utilises because of the difficulties experienced in the recruitment of new social workers. It is a high cost and Tusla is considering ways by which that cost can be brought down. I have had significant engagement with it in that regard. Perhaps I might say a little more about it in response to other questions. There are additional resources available and the agency is considering other ways to save money, as well as to increase the number of permanent social work staff.

Categories

Archive

Links

Meta

Dublin Bay North