I have raised the issue of social worker vacancies in Tusla a couple of times with the Minister in recent months. All Members were struck by the comments of the new chairperson of Tusla and former Deputy, Mr. Pat Rabbitte, at the Committee on Children and Youth Affairs, where he stated that Tusla is running to stand still in regard to recruitment and retention. Although 142 social workers were recruited in 2018, 158 left the organisation. Since 2014, approximately 800 social workers have been recruited, but the net gain is only approximately 4%. The former Deputy also referred to legacy issues and cultural changes which must be confronted. What did he mean by that? What is the current situation in that regard?
Deputy Tommy Broughan recently asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, to report on the number of aftercare workers recruited by Tusla in 2015, 2016 and to date in 2017 and also for the number that left during the same period. In a reply received from Tusla today, Deputy Broughan was informed that there is not a separate grade for aftercare workers and so was provided with the annual figures for social care workers. In 2015, 35 social workers were hired and 42 left (-7); in 2016, 55 were hired and 56 left (-1) and to date this year 10 social workers had been hired while 13 had left (-3). Therefore, since 2015 there were 100 people hired as social workers but 111 left the service.
I had the opportunity to speak on several important issues this week. On Tuesday evening, I commented on Ireland’s Brexit negotiation guidelines and later I made a brief contribution to the Labour Party motion on AIB.
On Wednesday evening, I got an opportunity to again call for major investment in Dublin public transport including Metro North. Finally on Thursday, I questioned Minister Katherine Zappone on the grave deficiencies in aftercare services for young people and raised the urgent need to restore salaries for staff in Section 39 health and disability services organisations.
On Friday afternoon, I met the Director of the NTMA, Mr Conor O’Kelly, with his colleagues, Mr Frank O’Connor and Martin Whelan, on the refinancing of Ireland’s huge national debt in 2018/2020.
I gather the Minister will take the question with another question of mine further down the list. The Minister responded to a question from Deputy Rabbitte earlier with some statistics. In 2015, there were 720 people between 18 and 22 years of age receiving aftercare services. A total of 78% of these were in the 18 to 20 years age bracket. The requirement for an aftercare plan to be in place prior to leaving residential care is important. Is the Minister concerned about the deficiencies in this regard? What follow-up is there for people who seem to disengage and slip through the net? Between 2014 and 2017, the number of homeless people in the 18 to 24 age group rose from 436 to 783. A total of 549 of these young adults were based in Dublin. Obviously, these are vulnerable children and young people. What additional resources will the Minister put forward?