Teen advocacy programme saves State €200,000 a year
AN INTENSIVE programme for troubled teenagers has seen an improvement in general behaviour in almost all of them and saves the State an average of almost €200,000 per annum in comparison with residential care.
The Youth Advocate Programme (YAP) was introduced into Ireland 10 years ago having proven to be successful in the United States. Some 475 children between the ages of 10 and 18 availed of the service last year.
YAP Ireland involves intensive support for up to 15 hours per week for six months through a trained community advocate. There are three programmes: an intensive support programme for the person themselves; a family support programme for their families; and an aftercare support programme for those who meet HSE criteria for aftercare support.
YAP Ireland estimates that an average six-month placement costs €10,200-€11,200 in comparison with €80,000 per year for private foster care and up to €4,000 per week for private residential placements. That makes for an annual saving of €58,000 per annum for residential care and €197,000 for 12 months in residential care.
Of nearly 300 teenagers profiled by YAP Ireland, more than half (58 per cent) came from families where there were drink or drug addiction. A third had a mental health or disability diagnosis, 32 per cent had been arrested, 10 per cent had one or more convictions and 22 per cent had a family member who had been convicted. Some 40 per cent were at high risk of entry to the care system.
The YAP analysis found that young people responded overwhelming in a positive manner to the service. Some 86 per cent reported an increase in self-esteem/confidence, 94 per cent showed an improvement in general behaviour and 91 per cent showed an improvement in co-operation with juvenile liaison officers (JLOs) or Garda.
The service was recognised today at the launch of the annual report by the Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald.
Referring to recent child protection reports which have shown lamentable shortcomings in the State’s treatment of at-risk children and young people, she said the YAP model has proved to be a “unique way of providing highly cost-effective, intensive, focused support to children, young people and families with more complex needs”.
YAP Ireland’s chief executive, Siobhán O’Dwyer, said appropriate accommodation was a critical factor for at- risk young people as had been outlined in the recent Independent Child Death Review Group’s report into the deaths of 196 children in State care.
“Services like ours get great outcomes for young people, but if you haven’t got a place to sleep at night that’s safe, it is very difficult to maintain any progress that you make,” she said.
“Stories in that report really show that.
“There is an onus on the new department to ensure they have appropriate placements for young people that they can accept. Often that is not the case,” she said.