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8 July 2024 - IASW Statement in Response to Latest Report from Child Law Project

The Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW) is extremely concerned at the content of the latest report from the Child Law Project (CLP): Volume 1 2024 and calls for urgent action to be taken on the issues arising.

This CLP volume contains 70 reports of court proceedings regarding children in care, observed by CLP, and it highlights ongoing, deeply worrying concerns about the lack of appropriate placements for vulnerable children, the lack of Special Care places for highly vulnerable young people at immediate risk, the additional complexities in cases involving migrant children and calls into question the capacity of relevant state agencies to provide safe, consistent care and services for children in care.

The report, while speaking to positive examples such as loving foster carers and parents who have been supported to improve their relationship with their children, focuses on the particular complexity of some children’s needs and the Courts’ role in ensuring that they are provided with appropriate, predictable, safe care and access to the services they need.  

The report details the concern and frustration of Judges hearing the cases of children and young people with complex issues who do not have a secure place to live or access to services. They also highlight concerns, shared by IASW members, about delays in some cases being brought to Court, due to lack of care placements.

The report warns of vulnerable children and young people with diagnoses of autism, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental health issues, as well as children with significant cognitive issues facing multiple placement breakdowns, inability to access disability or mental health services, or specialised therapeutic services, as well as being at risk of sexual exploitation.

The CLP’s warning that: “The lack of suitable care placements… risks collapsing the care system. The knock-on effects of a lack of appropriate placements are compounding existing difficulties for children and staff and so we fear the system has begun to unravel” is stark.

The Irish Association of Social Workers is deeply concerned for the children referenced in this volume of reports, including: 

  • those who don’t know from night to night where they will be staying while in State care as well as those who are living in unsuitable/unsafe placements
  • the children and young people sexually exploited while in the care of the State
  • young people whom the High Court have ruled should be placed in Special Care to ensure their safety, and for whom no Special Care bed has been provided
  • the high numbers of children and young people in care, who do not have an allocated social worker as required in law to ensure that they are cared for safely
  • those children and young people unable to access much needed disability and mental health services from the HSE.

IASW members have repeatedly raised similar concerns about the impact of the current crisis in social work services on children and young people in care and this report from CLP mirrors those concerns.  We add our voice to the CLP’s call for: “Urgent action across government is needed to halt this spiral of poor practice and to build trust in the care system.

IASW now calls for:

  1. The urgent enactment and implementation of The Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2023, which would establish the best interests of the child to be of paramount consideration and introduce a duty to cooperate between relevant bodies including Tusla, HSE, Government Departments, and An Garda Síochána. This would ensure that state agencies such as the HSE would be legally obligated to work with Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, to ensure that children in care are provided with much needed services in a more timely way. 
  1. The establishment of an interdepartmental working group to urgently address the needs of children in care, many of whom are being repeatedly failed by state agencies to provide them with safe and consistent care as well as access to vital services identified to specifically meet their individual needs. This interdepartmental working group would address the underlying issues, including current deficiencies in interdepartmental and interagency cooperation and other factors that impact, for example, on the recruitment and retention of staff and foster carers, and the provision of residential care and Special Care services to children needing them.

IASW also calls on the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) to ensure that the invaluable work, undertaken by the Child Law Project (CLP) for the past eleven years, is resourced to continue to bring transparency to child care proceedings, after the CLP’s current funding period ends this October.

Further information on the CLP report can be found here: