Private foster care firm paid €19.4m over three years
State paid €29m to four companies providing foster care from 2009 to 2011, writes GORDON DEEGAN
ONE FIRM received €19.4 million from the Department of Health for providing private foster care services over the past three years, new figures show.
According to figures released by the Department of Health, the UK-owned Fostering First Ireland Ltd received €19.4 million between 2009 and 2011.
The figures show that last year the Dublin-based firm received €7.7 million for providing care to 132 children and €6.5 million in 2010 for providing care to 146 children.
Furthermore, €29 million has been paid to four private foster care companies over the past three years by the State.
According to the department, a second firm, Five Rivers Ireland Ltd, received €7 million in fees over the past three years, which included €3.5 million for the care of 153 children last year.
Orchard Children’s Services received €1.8 million, while Oakland Residential Services Ltd received €677,000 in the past three years.
The most recent accounts for Fostering First (Ireland) Ltd to the Companies Office reveal the firm trebled its pre-tax profits from €147,000 to €467,000 in the year to the end of December 2010.
According to the directors’ report, “the company continues to provide high-quality, value-for-money family placements to children and young people, whilst maintaining a satisfactory financial performance”.
The report says the firm provides value-for-money care, delivering positive outcomes. This it says was evidenced by the recent interim inspection where the Health Information Quality Authority (Hiqa) once again endorsed the company’s operations.
Last year, the department paid €12.8 million to private foster care companies to care for 360 children – representing a 34 per cent increase on the €9.5 million paid out to private firms which cared for 304 children placed in private foster care in 2010.
In a recent Dáil written response on the costs, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald, said: “The private foster care company costs include the recruitment, assessment and training of the foster carer.
“The private company also provides the link worker [professional social worker] to provide support and supervision to the carer, ongoing training and, depending on the circumstances of the placement, support may be available on a 24-hour basis.
“The HSE generally utilises private foster care companies where children have a higher level of need, including stepping down from high-support placements,” she added.
According to a statement from the Department of Health: “Currently 91 per cent of children in the care of the HSE are placed in foster care, which is a very positive aspect of HSE care service provision and very high by international standards.
“The vast majority of foster care services are directly provided by the HSE, with a minority of placements being provided by the voluntary and private sectors.”