By Conor McNally
21% of social care cases have not yet been allocated to social workers, with Dublin North showing the biggest increase in the number of unallocated open cases, according to the second quarterly report of 2016 from the Child and Family Agency.
There are 5,610 open cases awaiting allocation throughout Ireland, a slight increase from the first quarter of 2016 but 5% lower than the same quarter last year. The figures are broken down by region and 2,078 of those cases (37%) come from areas in Dublin city or that at least partly include Dublin i.e. Dublin South East/Wicklow.
Open cases awaiting allocation in the Dublin area
Dublin North has 875 open cases awaiting allocation, the highest number in the country, and also reported the largest increase in unallocated cases from the first quarter of 2016 with 362. This increase was four times the size of the next biggest increase in the time period.
Dublin North City also reported an increase in the number of unallocated cases but three Dublin areas reported decreases. Dublin South Central reported the largest decrease with 269 fewer cases than in the first quarter of 2016.
Cases awaiting allocation are assigned priority levels of high, medium or low. A leaked internal report in 2015 showed there were 2,470 cases without an assigned social worker classified as high priority. That number is now 820 according to the second quarterly report in 2016, down 32% even from the first quarter of 2016.
A breakdown of unallocated cases and priority levels
Of the Dublin regions, Dublin South West/Kildare/West Wicklow had the highest number of high priority cases with 174. One of the most striking findings was that Dublin North, an area with 875 unallocated open cases, the highest figure in the country, did not have a single case classified as high priority awaiting allocation.
The Child and Family Agency has made a big push in the last year to bring down the numbers of high priority cases awaiting allocation following a leaked internal report in 2015. The report titled Measuring the Pressure V2, warned that a chronic shortage of social work staff compounded with new laws introducing the mandatory reporting of child protection concerns would put children at risk.
The number of high priority open cases without an allocated social worker is almost half of what it was in the equivalent period last year but how the priority levels are measured is also under review, according to the agency.