Over 520 children in care as service pressure mounts


The Western Trust has warned that pressure is mounting on its children and family services, with over 520 children now in care.

The Trust has only received funding for 400 looked after children for the entire financial year to the end of March 2015, however by the end of June alone there were a total of 528 children.

There are also still over 100 child cases to which a social worker has yet to be allocated.

The mounting pressures are continuing despite a raft of measures by the Trust to bring in additional staff and resources to help cope with the demand.

Trust Chief Executive Elaine Way told a meeting of Derry City Council’s Regional Services Committee this week that the pressure in this department were feeding into the wider “enormous financial challenges facing the organisation”.

Ms Way said that the Health and Social Care Board Commissioner allocated funding for 400 looked after children.

“They are anticipating,” she said, “that in any given year the Western Trust will be responsible for 400 children. We currently have 528 children. That brings a very significant challenge.”

Teresa Molloy, the Trust’s Director of Performance and Service and Improvement said: “Children’s services are an area of significant pressure. The number of looked after children in particular has increased significantly.”

As well as the pressures in terms of children in care, she said that there were also 131 unallocated cases, although all cases where there were child protection issues were allocated within 24 hours.

On a more positive note, she told the council committee, the Trust was very proud of its record of achievements in many areas over recent times, despite increasingly tough budget constraints and strict targets.

“We consider ourselves a very high performing organisation and that has certainly been borne out in these last 12 months,” she said.

She added that the Trust was leading others in Northern Ireland across a wide range of services, including having 100% of breast cancer patients seen within the 14-day limit from urgent referral.

Excellence has also noted in terms of fracture treatment against a seven day target; diagnostic testing; and in the nine-week target for access to adult or children’s mental health services.