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IASW IN THE NEWS State urged to fund statutory social work service for vulnerable adults

  • 17 May 2017

The Irish Association of Social Workers has called on the Government to establish and fund a statutory social work service for vulnerable adults, amid warnings that many people are allowed to drift into the margins of society with no single agency responsible for their welfare.

Noel Baker

Irish Examiner, 17th May 2017

The motion was passed at the recent IASW’s annual conference in Athlone, with delegates hearing that without such an agency, “vulnerable persons can fall within the gaps of care”.

The move was proposed by the IASW board of directors and seconded by IASW chairman Frank Browne before it was passed.

Mr Browne said that in the North, a statutory agency was long established to help people not under the ambit of other services and that in the south the current legislation was insufficient.

He explained why the IASW believed such a service was necessary, claiming that under the current situation “everything falls to GPs”.

“Having a statutory service, if someone at the end of your road was living in squalor, you can ring [the service] up and say you are concerned and someone might go out and assess his case,” he said.

“The consequences of never intervening is you have vulnerable people living in squalor and people fall through the net. It has to be someone’s responsibility to assess it.”

Mr Browne said while a range of measures were in place to try and prevent people from being hospitalised or entering nursing homes, there were still those at risk.

“Everything is left to GPs and everything is left to public health nurses,” he said.

The motion passed at the IASW conference mentions the Safeguarding (Bill) 2017 and the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015, but Mr Browne pointed out that the latter legislation has still not been fully enacted, meaning some cases are dealt with under the older wards of court model.

Mr Browne said child protection social workers had to check on the wellbeing of vulnerable children and that if a similar service was operated for vulnerable adults, at the very least their situation would be assessed and suitable services, such as those provided by mental health services, could come into play.

The IASW also pointed out that in the UK social workers have been trained to undertake capacity assessments for vulnerable adults, meaning it does not necessarily fall to GPs. 

The motion passed last week also notes that primary care teams would need to be fully staffed in terms of recommended numbers of social workers following a review of assessed needs.