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12th May 2020 | Press Releases

Minister must ensure TUSLA is ready for post-Covid-19 referral surge

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Green Party Spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs, Patrick Costello TD, has called on Minister Katherine Zappone to ensure adequate supports are in place to deal with the surge in referrals to Tusla when the country reopens.

Deputy Costello made the comments following research carried out by Nielsen which showed a surge in alcohol consumption in the home in the four-week period up to April 5th. He said: “The research carried out by Nielsen confirms concerns that alcohol consumption in the home has significantly risen since Covid-19 hit Ireland, with a 40% spike in off-licence sales. Team this with the latest figures on consumption from the CSO which show that households with children have the highest reported increase in alcohol consumption at 27.3% and it is deeply worrying.

“Whilst we are not necessarily drinking more, we have moved our drinking from the pub to an unregulated environment, the home, and this rarely yields a good outcome. Studies have found that there is a serious risk that parents with alcohol problems may neglect their children, and that this neglect may go on to have a negative impact on children’s emotional and physical development. A National Audit of Neglect Cases indicated that parental alcohol misuse was a factor in 62% of neglect cases.

“The fact that Tusla have also reported a significant decline in the number of referrals to the agency over the past two months means that many children could currently be trapped in harmful and abusive situations. Schools, créches, and other activities children may be involved in often play a significant role in identifying potential signs of neglect and abuse in the home, but this hasn’t been possible since restrictions were put in place.

“I am calling on Minister Zappone and her Department to ensure Tusla is adequately prepared for the huge surge in referrals we will see once the country reopens. There are already ongoing concerns with the level of understaffing and resources in Tusla and I fear that the backlog in cases we are facing into may leave some vulnerable children waiting for help for months. Temporary staff must be recruited and placed in duty offices if needed.

“Again, I also want to reiterate Tusla’s calls for the public to report any concerns that they may have about a child’s welfare at this time. Details of where you can find the local duty social work office where the child lives are available on the Tusla website. We cannot allow the system to fail our most vulnerable children,” concluded Deputy Costello.