Sinn Fein Foyle MLA Maeve McLaughlin has come in for praise from a social workers’ group for taking up an invitation to become a social worker for a day.
The local MLA, who is currently chair of the Health Committee, had earlier in the week expressed concerns and had called on the health minister to explain why more than 100 children have not been allocated a social worker in the Western Trust.
Speaking on Friday as she prepared to visit a number of facilities in the Western Trust area, the Foyle MLA said it was imperative that she got to know what challenges social workers were facing on the ground.
“As Chair of the Health Committee I feel that this is the best way to see first hand the critical work which is going on. I’ll be meeting directly with the teams and with social workers themselves and these are the people who engage directly with the children and young people who are part of the system,” she said,
The Foyle MLA continued: “Part of this is also about increasing our understanding as a society and hearing the voices of the social workers. Normally between 400 and 430 are formally accommodated in the Western Trust area but this year it is 523. “That means there are more than 100 cases where children have not been allocated a social worker. The system is currently so busy that staff have told me that the department is ‘running hot.
“I feel that there’s definitely a need for society to have a conversation about these facts and the more complex issues surrounding them, and learning more from our social workers, who are at the front line, is the best way to do this,”
Carolyn Ewart, the Country Manager for the Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers, welcomed the decision by the Foyle MLA to spend a day with social workers on the ground.
“We’re absolutely delighted that Maeve has taken up the invitation particularly in her role as Chair of the Health Committee. Social workers do a hugely complex job and often people are saying they don’t understand the job that social workers do. Opportunities like this are giving us a chance to inform and change those perceptions.”