Social work is in the throes of a chronic and deepening crisis in relation to training, recruitment and retention of social work professionals; and those with whom we work are suffering as a result. There are too few social workers in Ireland to begin with; many of those in post are overburdened as a result of high staff turnover and unfilled vacancies; and there are too few student social workers in training to replace those leaving the profession, let alone to provide expanded social services required because of increasing populations, new legislation etc. The impact of all this is that those individuals, families and communities who need social work services, for whatever reason, are being restricted or denied that access. The Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW) has just published a scoping report on Training, Recruitment and Retention of Social Workers in Ireland, as a key step in addressing the relevant issues. IASW now calls on Government to take the necessary urgent steps to put strategic leadership, planning and other essential measures in place to deal with the problem.
Social work is the profession that supports people dealing with significant life challenges and facilitating positive change, as well as the profession of human rights and social justice. Speaking on the launch of the IASW scoping report, ahead of UN Human Rights Day, Vivian Geiran, Chairman of IASW stated:
We all know what the problems impacting social work are. They include a lack of even basic data, such as how many social workers there are, where they work and the numbers moving in and out of the profession in Ireland. There are too few social workers to provide existing services, let alone provide for expanded services in the future. We also urgently need a strategic plan for social workforce planning nationally. This will take a government decision to assign overall strategic responsibility for social work to one government department. Because social work services come under the remit of a number of government departments, strategic oversight is at best fragmented, at worst non-existent. There is a logic to the Department of Health being that coordinating department. Otherwise, we will continue to see the negative impact of the well-recognised problems continue and indeed worsen over the months and years ahead, in the form of waiting lists, unavailability of services and system failures.
The IASW’s Scoping Report on Social Work Training, Recruitment and Retention provides a comprehensive overview of the many current challenges faced by social workers and provides solutions for Government to act on an interim and long-term basis. These solutions include:
Vivian Geiran emphasised that:
The overarching need, however, is for Government to identify a single department to be assigned clear responsibility for strategic direction, including workforce planning, in respect of the social work profession and the services they provide, with the clear mandate to ensure cross-sectoral cooperation necessary to link and deliver the appropriate solutions.
Notes for Editors:
IASW Spokesperson: Vivian Geiran (Chair, IASW) via office on 086 0241055