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(Ireland) Tusla: MORE students with mental health issues/special needs

July 13, 2019, Irish Examiner: Number of pupils missing school soars School absenteeism cases on Tusla’s national waiting list have surged to the highest recorded level due to the rising number of homeless children, insufficient numbers of staff, and increasingly complex cases such as students with mental health issues and special needs. Figures contained in the child and family agency’s most recently published monthly report show that in April, Tusla’s Educational Welfare Service (EWS) had 2,636 referrals on its waiting list. The figure has been climbing steadily since last October and the comparable figure from April 2018 was 1,670 cases. In addition to the all-time high number of referrals on its waiting list last April, the number of cases closed that month — 275 — was the lowest monthly tally so far this year. Yet the number of referrals screened that month was amongst the highest recorded in 2019. Tusla said the EWS — which issues School Attendance Notices (SANs) to parents in relation to excessive absenteeism by children from school, and which can and does bring prosecutions to court — only started recording the number of cases on a national waiting list in September 2017, and the figure for April 2019 is the highest recorded since. … Overall, staffing at the EWS, while increasing, “is still below what is required to meet service demand”. Tusla also referred to the complexity of cases as a contributory factor to the record waiting list, including those of homeless children. The most recent government figures showed 3,749 children homeless last May. The Tusla spokesperson said: “We now deal with much more complex needs related to students with special education needs, students with anxiety/mental health needs, students whose families are homeless, students from migrant and refugee families, as well as working with families experiencing multiple difficulties…. “There has been a steady increase in the number of EWOs since the service came into Tusla,” said the spokesperson. “We had just over 60 EWOs in 2014 when the service transferred into Tusla. Staff numbers had increased to 89 EWOs at end of 2018, and is increasing further in 2019 when we should have 100 EWOs by the year-end. The spokesperson said Tusla and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs are aware of the issues and are addressing it through increased staffing. …

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