“The HSE started an out-of-hours social work services pilot programme in Cork in September 2011. In the first eight months there were 29 calls to the out-of-hours services. This is an average of almost three a month and shows that there is a need for these out-of-hour services.
“The difficult situations that require intervention by social workers don’t just occur during normal working hours, they very often arise at night and at weekends. When problems do occur it is vital that there is access to the necessary supports. The pilot programme has highlighted this need.
“The project is still running and involves the provision by local HSE staff of social work support out-of-hours where deemed necessary by Gardai. As part of the pilot project HSE social workers are on call out of hours to respond to referrals.
“The next phase of the pilot programme is a detailed evaluation of the service. The HSE has undertaken an initial internal evaluation and it has also commissioned an independent external assessment of the project. It is expected that the independent assessment will be completed in the very near future. I understand that a decision on progression to a national rollout will be made following evaluation of the two pilot projects and other relevant data.
“Throughout the running of the pilot programme social workers and Gardaí have co-operated to ensure the delivery of this programme. I call on the HSE to prioritise the assessment of this programme so that its overall effectiveness can be determined.”