There has been a sharp rise in the number of children referred to Tusla because of missing school.
In its latest monthly report for March, the Tusla Education Support Service (TESS) had 899 referrals screened by senior educational welfare services, 26 per cent more than in February and up 150 per cent compared to March last year.
As the Irish Examiner reports, the agency acknowledged that Covid-19 may still be having an impact and the overall number of referrals is likely to settle down.
The latest report also shows a rise in the number of children on the register for home education, up to 1,857, although the number of children on the waiting list has fallen.
Since the start of the school year the total number of referrals made to TESS has increased 20 per cent and there were 3,021 referrals on a waiting list for educational welfare services at the end of March this year, up 23 per cent compared with the figure for February.
In addition, TESS worked with 366 new individual children in March, bringing to 2,229 the number of new individual children worked with for the seven-month period from September 2021 to March 2022.
However, a Tusla spokesperson said while there had been a spike in referrals, the numbers by year end were likely to fall.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on school attendance, which continued in 2022," the spokesperson said. "While there were no school closures in the school year 2021/22 there were ongoing Covid-19 public health related restrictions which impacted on school attendance.
"As regular school attendance has resumed following a period of school closures and remote teaching and learning, TESS is working to ensure that as additional needs/complexities arise, we are deploying additional resources to support our response.
However, while we are seeing an increase in referrals in the last number of months, our referral rate for the school year 2022/23 is likely to be in line with pre-Covid school years."
Tusla said that while referrals are primarily received from schools, parents and other professionals can also make a referral.