Children leaving care to be granted extra rights from September
500-600 children a year will have statutory right to ‘Aftercare Plan’
Statement by Minister Katherine Zappone
Thursday 11th May, 2017
500-600 children leaving care each year after reaching the age of 18 will have the right to an aftercare plan from 1st September which will identify required supports, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone has announced.
Answering questions in the Dáil the Minister confirmed that funding will be available to ensure proper resources are in place, including aftercare workers, to meet what will be a new statutory obligation.
Minister Zappone said:
“I am conscious that the transition to independent adulthood can be challenging for many young people.
This is particularly true for children and young people in care. Planning for leaving care needs to begin in the years prior to leaving care and continue as part of the care planning process.
This preparatory work is facilitated by a social worker and is based on collaboration with the young person, their carers and partner agencies.
It is specific to the individual young person's needs. During the preparation for leaving care an aftercare worker is introduced to the young person. They are involved in the preparation for the leaving care process.”
The Minister added:
“There are pending amendments to the Child Care Act 1991 which will place a statutory obligation to provide an aftercare plan before the young person leaves care. I intend that this provision will be commenced with effect from the 1st September 2017. I have secured the funding needed to recruit additional aftercare workers to enable Tusla to deliver this new commitment in full.”
NOTE TO EDITORS
Young people leaving care need ongoing support in order to achieve their potential. The provision of an appropriate aftercare service has been highlighted as a key element to achieving positive outcomes for young people upon leaving care. It is essential that young people leaving care are provided with the type of transitional support that their individual situation requires.
Aftercare provision incorporates advice, guidance and practical support. The social worker, aftercare worker, young person, carer and others identify what the young person will need for support and how this will best be met. This may include education, financial support, social network support, and training. One of the key features of aftercare support is to advocate on behalf of young people to promote their development as a fulfilled adult in their community. The most important requirements for young people leaving care are for secure, suitable accommodation, access to further education, employment or training and supportive relationships.
Aftercare – Legal Provision
Section 45 of the Child Care Act 1991 places a statutory duty on Tusla to form a view in relation to each person leaving care as to whether there is a "need for assistance" and if it forms such a view, to provide services in accordance with the legislation and subject to resources. Young people who have had a care history with Tusla are entitled to an aftercare service based on their assessed needs. The core eligible age range for aftercare is from 18 years up to 21 years. This can be extended until the completion of a course of education in which a young person is engaged, up to the age of 23 years.
The Minister has decided to strengthen the legislative provisions regarding aftercare to respond to past concerns that there was insufficient focus in this area and that such planning was not taking place on a properly structured and consistent basis.
The approach adopted is to impose a statutory duty on Tusla to prepare an aftercare plan for an eligible child or eligible young person. The aim is to create an explicit, as opposed to implicit, statement of Tusla’s duty to satisfy itself as to the child’s or young person’s need for assistance by preparing a plan that identifies those needs for aftercare supports.