Tusla, the Child And Family Agency, plans to offer 24-hour support to all foster carers in Ireland.
Most recent figures show there are 6,276 children in care in Ireland, 325 of whom are in residential units.
While 92% of children in State care are placed with foster families, only carers living in Cork, Dublin, Wicklow, and Kildare can access out-of-hours support.
“Foster carers need support. This is especially true with more complex placements,” said Katherine Zappone, the minister for children and youth affairs.
“Tusla plans to offer 24-hour support to foster carers and is currently engaged in negotiations with staff unions on this matter.”
She was speaking at the joint Oireachtas committee on children and youth affairs, on issues arising in foster care services in Ireland.
The phone service for the four counties was put in place in 2015, allowing gardaí to contact out-of-hours social care workers.
The plan is to roll out this service in the late autumn, according to the minister.
Another improvement tabled for the autumn is the consolidation of the three out-of-hours services (Crisis Intervention, Emergency Out of Hours, and Cork Service) into a single, national service.
This will be accessed by a single, Tusla out-of-hours contact number.
Minister Zappone said Ireland’s history of institutionalised care for children has a “poor” reputation, but that we must acknowledge improvements.
“Of all the children in care in Ireland, 92% are in foster care. This compares with 74% in the UK.
“In Ireland, the 8% of children who are not placed in foster care are placed in children’s residential placements, or in specialist disability centres.
“This compares very well with other countries in the Western world and we should acknowledge this,” Minister Zappone said.
Meanwhile, a private residential foster care service is to cease operating.
“Tusla has recently been informed that Fresh Start, a private residential and foster care service, has decided to cease its foster care service in the coming months,” said a spokeswoman for Tusla yesterday.
Fresh Start had undergone a Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) inspection, the conclusions of which were published yesterday.
The service registered five major non-compliances with Hiqa standards, one of which was the director of the company not being suitably qualified.
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