Due to both cuts in social workers and a rising number of child abuse cases, social workers are “being forced to ignore potentially serious reports of suspected abuse or neglect due to heavy workloads and under-staffing," the Irish Times reports.
In order to deal with the massive number of cases coming their way, workers are forced to give their attention to only the most “emergency” cases and put the others on a waiting list, sometimes for months.
One social worker admitted that she felt it was "only a matter of time before there is a major scandal, such as a child being exposed to horrific abuse or neglect due to our inability to respond. Many of us fear that when something goes wrong, we’ll be left out on our own."
A few such cases that "are not receiving a social work response," according to the Times, include:
- A 10 year-old suicidal child whose mother is unable to cope with her
- A 13 year-old girl who has been out of school for several years and whose mother is neglecting her
- Four young children living in unhygienic circumstances whose mother appears to be neglecting them
-A young boy who has been admitted to the hospital several times with head injuries, a sign that he may be abused by his "agressive" mother
Along with all these cases, "hundreds of these cases are not getting a response." Currently, there at 6,128 children relying on the Irish government for care.
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According to social workers representing several different areas, the field has been under "unprecedented strain" due to the rising number of abuse cases over the past year. This may be due to the also-increasing number of high-profile child abuse cases, such as the Roscommon mother and her children back in 2009.
Because of the large amount of cases, social workers today can only realistically respond to the most urgent of all cases. The cases that are "less serious" get put on waiting lists, where the families could wait months for only a short visit from a worker.
Another worker spoke of the frustrating wait-list system and said that more and more people "are being added to growing waiting lists. No additional resources are being made available to deal with these backlogs. As a result, these children remain at risk."
It's sad to say that to be put on the waitlist for months is ideal situation because it means that a family's situation will remain the same - and not get any worse - until a worker intervenes. The alternative to getting faster attention, however, is if the situation escalates into something much more serious.
Many social workers also say that they have voiced their concerns to government officials, but to almost no avail.
However, the Health Service Executive (HSE) said that it was "aware of the gaps in services" but also noted that it has adopted a three-year program to address those concerns.
Officials also reported that they were in the process of recruiting more social workers to help deal with the mass inquiries coming their way. They contest that two hundred social workers were recruited in 2010 and 60 more are in the process of being brought in now.
The HSE noted that their improvements "will take considerable time, effort, perseverance, and collaboration."