Alliance Expresses Dismay as the HSE Abandons Planned 24-hour Social Work Service to Children in Crisis

Published date: 
7 Aug 2008


The Children’s Rights Alliance today expresses its disappointment and dismay at the reported abandonment, due to spending cutbacks, by the Health Service Executive (HSE) of its plans to introduce a national 24-hour hour out-of-hours social work service for children in crisis.

Jillian van Turnhout, Chief Executive, says: ‘Abandoning plans to introduce access to emergency social work services for children at risk is wholly unacceptable. Scrapping these plans suggests something worrying — those making decisions in the HSE do not understand their statutory obligations in the area of child protection under the Child Care Act, 1991 and the Children Act, 2001. The State’s social work services are a priority front line service and must be sufficient to meet their statutory obligations. This decision is a sad indictment of Ireland’s treatment of its children and, as a nation, we should be deeply ashamed. The Alliance urges the HSE to look again at its budget.’

Ms van Turnhout continues: ‘Personal and family crises are not confined to social workers’ daytime 40- hour week. There are 168 hours in the week and problems do not get put on hold during the evenings, nights or weekends. Indeed, crises typically develop outside office hours and need to be dealt with immediately. Without this vital service, we continue to fail our most vulnerable children. When will we have the basics in place? There is something fundamentally wrong with our society when we have 24-hour emergency access to vets, IT support, car breakdown assistance and plumbers, but nobody on the other end of the phone when a vulnerable child requires emergency accommodation and support.

The Alliance first raised this issue 11 years ago, in 1997, and again in 2006, in both its shadow reports to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. Most recently, we raised the matter with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Barry Andrews TD, as well as his predecessor, now Minister for Agriculture, Brendan Smith TD. In September 2006, in its Concluding Observations, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that Ireland “Extend the social work services provided to families and children at risk to a seven-day, 24-hour service.” Children in need require an appropriate State response (Article 19 of the UN Convention). Without such a response, the State is in breach of its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which it ratified without reservation in 1992.

For further information, please contact:
Jillian van Turnhout, Chief Executive
Tel: (01) 662 9400 / 087 2333784; Fax: (01) 662 9355

Notes to Editor:

  • Currently there is no ‘out-of-hours’ service, apart from a service in Dublin and this has lead to ongoing concern about the welfare of children at risk who require assistance outside of normal office hours.
  • The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Ireland. U.N. Doc. CRC/C/IRL/CO/2 (2006) can be accessed at http://daccessods.
  • Children’s Rights Alliance (2006) From Rhetoric to Rights: Second Shadow Report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, Dublin: Children’s Rights Alliance; and Children’s Rights Alliance (1997) Small Voices: Vital Rights: Submission to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, Dublin: Children’s Rights Alliance. These reports can be downloaded from
Children's Rights Alliance