Young adults, previously in care, will receive preferential treatment on council housing lists under “well advanced” negotiations between the HSE and local authorities.
A conference on the provision of aftercare services for those that come through the social services system heard of the risks of young adults, formerly in care, becoming homeless.
It heard calls for aftercare to be placed on a statutory footing, particularly through changing the wording of Section 45 of the Child Care Act 1991, which states that a health authority “may” assist someone until they turn 21.
Child welfare groups believe the wording should switch to “shall”, thereby removing any discretionary aspect.
Addressing the conference, organised by children’s charity Barnardos, the national specialist for alternative care in the HSE, Siobhan Mugan, said there were a number of challenges facing the new child welfare service that will begin work next year. They include:
* The number of children received into care is rising;
* An increased number of children with challenging behaviours;
* Budget reductions and moratorium on recruitment expected for a number of years to come;
* Fears children with mild to moderate learning difficulties could fall through the gaps on leaving care;
* Some young adults in high risk category refusing services.
Ms Mugan also unveiled figures which show, as of two months ago, there were 6,236 children in care.
Under a new inter-agency group established by the HSE to develop an implementation plan on aftercare, steering committees are looking at linking up with children services committees while a joint protocol with housing authorities, as recommended under the Ryan Recommendation, is “well advanced”.
An implementation group has been discussing the measure with the City and Council Managers Association.
Child law rapporteur Geoffrey Shannon said issues surrounding aftercare included “a sort of geographical injustice” where standards of aftercare and levels of assessment for those services differed from one part of the country to the next.
Mr Shannon, along with Brenda Kneafsey of EPIC and Mike Joyce of Focus Ireland, also raised concerns over some young people on turning 18 wishing to leave the care system behind, only to encounter obstacles if they want to access an aftercare service a year or two later on falling into difficulty.
Ms Kneafsey said a message to such people, that ‘you have had your chance’, was “widespread”.
Ms Mugan said a lot of money had been spent on aftercare but it was now being separated from overall expenditure.
She said work was continuing on finalising figures for people seeking aftercare in the next year.
Young adult services
* 6,236 children in care as of last March.
* Almost a 20% increase in the last four years.
* 90% are in foster care with less than 10% in residential care.
* 1,123 people aged between 18 to 21 were in receipt of an aftercare service.
* 1,341 young people were receiving a service.
* Approximately 60% of young people were in education or training.
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