THE Government has been urged to make an exception about halving the dole for young people with a warning that it could cripple the lives of over 5,000 children in care once they turn 18.
Living on e100 a week on the dole would be impossible for children leaving care, it was stressed yesterday.
Halving the jobseekers’ allowance would threaten neglected and abused children who already are facing homelessness and depression once they became adults, the Government were told. The warning was made by the Irish Association of Young People in Care (IAYPC) who support troubled children once they leave foster homes and care.
Between 5,000 and 5,400 children are in care at any one time in Ireland, according to the latest figures provided to IAYPC. At least 2,000 of these leave care every year.
The plea by supporters of children leaving care came after the Government’s decision to half the dole for those under 20.
IAYCP say the children have no statutory right or legal entitlement to support once they reach 18.
“They are amongst the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society and will be further marginalised by the drastic cut in jobseekers allowance proposed in the budget,” said association director Jennifer Gargan.
Often hundreds of teenagers annually leaving care contact the service seeking help to find accommodation, financial support and training as they have no aftercare help.
IAYCP say the neglected children, who are often physical and sexual abuse victims, leave home on average six years younger than other young people. Unlike other young people, they have no automatic fall back support system within their family, the group say.
“Living alone and surviving on e100 per week will be impossible and will increase the likelihood of homelessness, depression and other problems for those 18 to 20 year olds leaving the care of the state,” she added.
It was also stressed last night that the decision to drop the Christmas bonus for those on the dole, including young welfare recipients among others, would lead to an increased use of moneylenders.
The association for young people in care intend contacting Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan this week to express concerns on the lowering of the dole for youths and to seek a special exemption.
Social and Family Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin last night indicated special arrangements may be made for children leaving care.
Her spokeswoman said: “The department is looking at putting in place special arrangements for 18 and 19 year olds who have left state residential care services. Recognising that these individuals would have particular needs the Department of Social and Family Affairs will work with the HSE to identify individuals in this category.”
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