Question to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Ms. Frances Fitzgerald, TD)
For WRITTEN ANSWER on 23/04/2013
To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will provide an update on her plans to strengthen the new investment to aftercare as announced at the hearing of the child deaths last July. – Jerry Buttimer T.D.
The Deputy will be aware that I am currently examining options, in association with the Attorney General, to strengthen legislation regarding the provision of aftercare. I have recently held round-table discussions with HSE, service providers, advocates and the voluntary sector in relation to the recent improvements in aftercare service delivery and the proposed legislative change. My officials have met with their counterparts in Northern Ireland to discuss the nature and impact of the strengthening of aftercare legislatively in Northern Ireland and issues to do with service provision. The Deputy will be aware that I had previously indicated my intention to bring forward legislative amendments in the legislation to establish the Child and Family Agency, and this remains my focus.
The HSE Children and Family Services has developed a National Policy and Procedures Document which sets out out eligibility, assessment and service available to young people on reaching 18 years and a National Implementation Group has been established to oversee the progress and challenges in improving services and outcomes for young people leaving care. The Group is comprised of representatives of funded services providers such as Focus Ireland and other advocacy organisations, as well as representatives of foster carers and other groups. They have found an increasingly systematic approach across the country to young people around age sixteen being identified through the care planning review process and a standardised aftercare planning template. This approach is helping the early identification of young people with special needs, such as learning disabilities, and has led to good examples of inter-agency working. There have also been some improvements in the data available although more work is required in this area and in rolling out fully standardised financial allowances.
The HSE’s annual spend on aftercare in 2012 was €17 million. There are currently 45 dedicated aftercare workers in the HSE additionally the HSE commissions aftercare services, residential and support in the community, from Focus Ireland, Don Bosco and Cross Care across the country. The HSE have advised me that approximately 500 young people reach the age of 18 in care every year, with 412 young people in care reaching their 18th birthday in 2012.
At the end of December 2012
– 639 young people over the age of 18 years were supported financially to remain living with their foster carers. These young people did not have to face the transition of leaving their foster carers at age 18 and for many, in addition to having access to an after care worker, they received their key support from their foster carers
– 110 young people were living in supported living arrangements and had an aftercare key worker
– there were 384 young people over 21 receiving some aspect of aftercare support the remaining 1073 were between 18 and 21
– 599 of the total number were in full time education
– a further 656 were in some form of education and training.
Given the particular difficulties of some young people in areas of mental health and disability, the aftercare policy has a strong multi-agency dimension. the Aftercare Implementation Group is developing protocols with Social Inclusion, Disability Services, Mental Health Services and Primary Care and the Department of the Environment regarding housing to support this approach A protocol has been signed with the Irish Youth Justice Service which covers joint working arrangements for young people in Detention Schools.
Clearly, there have been improvements in the delivery of an aftercare service but more work remains to be done. My officials will continue to engage with the HSE to ensure that the service is addressing the needs of these vulnerable young people and the information provided will inform the policy development being undertaken to underpin aftercare in legislation.