Two cases re-entered by court because no social worker allocated, in one mother had turned her life around – 2024vol1#64

Two case were re-entered by the court under its own motion on the grounds that no social worker was allocated to the children in care.


Re-entered case where mother had turned her life around

This case came before the court for the purpose of a review. It was billed by the solicitor for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) as being a “success story” where the future had previously looked bleak. The child suffered from a particular medical syndrome and suffered mobility issues and was peg fed.

The child was living with the maternal grandmother and the child’s mother had significant difficulties with alcohol and at one point the CFA solicitor said that there had been concerns for the mother’s life.

The CFA solicitor informed the court that the mother had turned her life around and had had a second child who was living with her and she herself had renewed her relationship with her own mother. The CFA solicitor that there had been a recent family holiday and everyone had informal contact with the child. She said the child was linked in with supports. The care order had been granted five years previous and allocated to a social worker two years ago. The CFA solicitor said the child was due to start school and they were planning on a further review in the autumn before the child started school.

The judge asked if a letter had been sent to the foster carers about the unallocated social worker and the CFA solicitor said a letter had been sent when the social worker left.

The solicitor for the GAL said that the grandparents had been excellent advocates for the child and had provided great care. The child had profound disabilities. The child was doing well in her placement. Initially the health care professionals thought the child might never walk or see but she could now do so.

The court was told that the mother had turned her life around and had an 18-month-old child living with her and things were “really, really positive”.

The solicitor for the mother said that addiction had been all-consuming for the mother, she had an excellent third level education and was back on track and she was dedicated to the child. She said she would be bringing a section 22 application to discharge the care order in due course but they wanted to make sure services were in place and wanted to review how the child would get on at school.

The judge was pleased the child was doing well and he said it was positive the mother had made a strong recovery. He said however that the case was back before the court due to the unallocation of a social worker. He said the court would not accept an active duty system. He said the care order had been made in 2019 and the CFA had not allocated a social worker. He said the CFA could not try to explain away the situation – an active on-duty system was not satisfactory. He wanted a timeline for the allocation of a social worker.

He went on to say that the court was not accepting the situation. The CFA had failed to allocate a social worker in two years and had failed to re-enter the matter before the courts. He said the CFA were to respond in writing within seven days and copy the court.

In respect of the letter that was sent, he said that there was nothing new in the letter and letter was not a satisfactory position. He said the CFA did not comply with the care order directions, “no one bothered to do it”. He said the facts remain “the CFA did not comply with a court order to re-enter when there was no allocated social worker”.


Case involving three children, mother in prison

A case was re-entered in Dublin District Court in circumstances where no social worker had been allocated to three children, the subject of full care orders since 2022.

The solicitor for the Child and Family Agency (CFA) said that while it was accepted there was no allocated social worker, a team leader was involved who regularly met with the children. She noted that when the care orders were made in 2022, the lack of an allocated social worker was a fact known to the court and no issue had been taken at the time in circumstances where a team leader was involved.

The judge said he had heard the case in full over a period of three days and found the circumstances very serious. The order he made at the time was that there needed to be an allocated social worker. He said he did not accept the CFA solicitor’s assertion that the court had agreed to oversight by a team leader. Rather, he recalled making a very clear direction that the children required an allocated social worker.

He said: “We have three children in care where the Agency has once again failed to bring the case back to court… We have to ensure these kids are receiving proper care and that they are protected. The Agency have to follow their own processes.”

A further direction had been made at the time that the matter should be re-entered by the CFA if a social worker had not been allocated. He said the CFA had failed to take the necessary step in spite of the court’s direction. This was “yet another case” involving the same social work department. He noted there were eight cases in total which the court had to re-enter.

A manager from the social work department was due to attend court the following day “to explain the situation.” In addition, the judge said there needed to a national response to the issue and that the Chief Executive of the CFA should respond formally. He said: “It’s a shocking situation which the Agency finds itself in and frankly it’s disgraceful.”

The mother, who was incarcerated, was present in court and asked to address the judge about her children. She said her children had a very good relationship with the social work team leader and that she was being kept up to date about each of them. She was concerned that there was no allocated social worker, but she was very happy with the team leader currently involved and the children liked her. She said bringing a new social worker into their lives had not been good for them in the past, so she did not want to lose the team leader.

The judge said the point the mother made was very positive and it was good to hear that a lot of the work that was being done was good work. He said it was clear there was “dedicated and hardworking” social workers on the team, but this was “overshadowed to some degree” by the fact that the court’s direction in 2022 had not been complied with.

He said it was unfortunate that he had to bring the CFA before the court, but the case would remain there for as long as necessary. The matter was adjourned for six weeks for review, re-entry and response from the Chief Executive.