Lack of available social workers to take on dozens of family intervention cases across Western Trust area

A review is to be undertaken after it emerged that dozens of children in the Western Trust area have not been allocated a social worker after referral.

The review was announced at yesterday’s meeting of the Western Health and Social Care Trust Board after it was confirmed that in children’s services there were still 88 unallocated cases for family intervention service.

Non-executive board member Barbara Stuart asked the director of Women and Children’s Services Kieran Downey whether he was concerned about the matter, which she said was high up on the trust’s risk register.

He replied: “I am always concerned about unallocated cases. No later than yesterday we had a three hour discussion.”

He said that his directorate was now going to start looking to see if there was anything more that could be done to address the issue.

It was also stated during the discussion that the number of unallocated cases had dropped from 103 in December to 88 by February.

Chairman of the board Gerard Guckian stressed that all 88 cases had been ‘triaged’.

This involved an initial assessment being carried out, after which the children were referred on to family intervention services. At this stage however there has been no social workers to deal with the cases.

While there were no child protection cases among these 88 on the waiting list, it was stressed at the meeting that family support cases can very easily and very quickly become child protection cases.

Mr Downey confirmed however that none of the cases on the list were in the ‘gateway’ category, which he said was “the front door into our services”.

It also emerged that there were around 115 more children in care than the 400 that have been allowed for by the Commissioner, with the total now standing at around 515.

On a separate matter, it emerged that Derry’s Accident & Emergency department may now undergo major changes following a fact-finding mission to hospitals in England by key staff at the Trust.

The Trust’s Director of Performance & Service Improvement Teresa Molloy and Geraldine McKay, director of Acute Hospitals were among the local team who have just returned from the Manchester area.

They group visited three hospitals in the Manchester area- Salford, Wigan and Penine.