There were almost 70,000 referrals to the Child and Family Agency in 2020, a rise of 23% compared to the previous year.

The increased figure of 69,712 referrals is partly due to Tusla now including referrals which may not require a child protection response but do require consideration for family support services, which were previously not counted.

Overall, the number of referrals was 23% above 2019, when there were 56,561 referrals.

There were 22,356 children in receipt of a family support service last year, a decrease of almost 2,500 compared to 2019.

There were 5,992 children in the care of the agency at the end of 2020, up seven compared to the same time 12 months previously.

Just over 90% of children in care were being fostered and 2,943 young people/adults were in receipt of aftercare services at the end of 2020.

The agency worked with 5,372 children in the 2019/2020 academic year through Tusla Education Support Services, down from 6,291 in the previous year.

The CEO of Tusla said 2020 was a "very challenging year" because of the severity and prolonged nature of the pandemic.

Bernard Gloster said: "Despite this, our staff of over 5,000 people and colleagues working in several hundred funded voluntary and professional organisations, redoubled their effort and continued to provide vital services in the protection, care and welfare of so many children and families.

"As the year unfolded, we worked to reinstate other core services such as adoption, education support and early years, working with Minister Roderic O'Gorman and his department to recalibrate our services from 'crisis' to 'normal' in the context of the pandemic response," he added.

In 2020, there were 774 notifications of incidents at early years services, a significant increase from the 2019 figure of 403.

However, the agency said this reflects the duty of registered providers of early years services to report outbreaks of Covid-19 in addition to a range of other incidents.

In 2020, just one service working with children was placed on the register of non-compliance by the Child Safeguarding Statement Compliance Unit.

The agency received 158 applications for adoption across the areas of domestic, step-parent, inter-county and fostering to adopt and all children eligible and assessed for adoption had their orders granted.

Elsewhere, the UK is no longer subject to the Brussels II regulation dealing with child custody, due to Brexit.

Tusla said this meant a new procedure for dealing with cases under the Hague Convention 1996 needed to be developed.

The Data Protection Commission (DPC) conducted three statutory inquiries in 2019 after the agency made voluntary disclosures.

As a result of these investigations, administrative fines totalling €200,000 were imposed.

The weaknesses identified included the transmission of sensitive personal data by post and email, issues related to redaction when sharing personal data and controls over data sharing.

Tusla received 647 formal complaints in 2020 which is less than the 714 received in the previous year, but said just 56.9% had sufficient detail to "facilitate meaningful analysis".

In its seventh year of operation, the agency had a budget allocation of more than €791m and a capital development spend of almost €15.4m.