Foster carers forced to supervise families’ access visits

FOSTER carers are being forced into impossible positions whereby they must supervise access visits with the family of the young person for whom they are caring.

The Irish Foster Carers Association have said that, while some foster carers don’t mind this additional duty, it is “highly undesirable” to place the foster carer in the position where they have to supervise access where there might arise a conflict of interest.

“There is strong evidence from our membership that these demands are increasing. It would appear that new foster carers, in particular, are being asked to take on these added responsibilities. When foster carers challenge such demands, they are told that the HSE’s budget intended to support access has been slashed.

“Budgets for taxis and public transport in order to facilitate access have been abolished and because mileage expenses for social workers have been cut they are sometimes reluctant to facilitate access themselves,” the IFCA said.

Brenda Irwin advocacy officer with the IFCA said this was an ongoing issue and although there was supposed to be an increase in social workers under government policy, this wasn’t been seen on the ground.

“Social workers are so stretched and this impacts on foster carers. Supervising is not their role. Sometimes access visits have to take place in their home and again that is not satisfactory.”

Ms Irwin said it had been a tough year morale wise for foster carers who were lambasted for receiving such high payments for children in their care.

“Being a foster carer is not the same as being a parent and there are obligations which must be filled so you are not comparing like with like.”

Although there were no cuts to foster carers allowances in the budget, the Government has not ruled it out in the future.

The new department for Children and Youth Affairs in its budget briefing said it did not rule out reducing the number of private and foster care placements:

“In 2010 the HSE incurred expenditure of €100m in respect of foster care payments. These payments were not reduced in Budget 2011 and a decision could be made to reduce the payment rate in 2012. However, in considering this issue a lot of care would need to be taken to avoid reduction in the rate of payment resulting in fewer numbers of foster carers which could give rise to an additional demand for residential care at much higher cost.”


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