Supports to be strengthened for those leaving State care

1093 young adults received aftercare support at end of December last year

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald, who sought approval for the main points or Heads of Bill, welcomed the decision, which she said would deliver on her long-standing commitment to strengthen the legislative provisions governing aftercare.

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald, who sought approval for the main points or Heads of Bill, welcomed the decision, which she said would deliver on her long-standing commitment to strengthen the legislative provisions governing aftercare.

Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 21:59

The Cabinet has given approval for legislation obliging the Child and Family Agency to prepare an aftercare plan for young adults when they leave formal State care at age 18.

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald, who sought approval for the main points or Heads of Bill, welcomed the decision, which she said would deliver on her long-standing commitment to strengthen the legislative provisions governing aftercare.

Aftercare is the support put in place for a person leaving statutory care at 18 to assist them in making the transition to independent living and at the end of last year there were 1,093 people receiving aftercare services.

The proposed legislation would, she said, strengthen the legislative provisions for aftercare by amending the Child Care Act 1991. The change would place a statutory duty on the Child and Family Agency to prepare an aftercare plan for each eligible child.

Ms Fitzgerald said: “It is crucial that an aftercare plan is prepared to identify the support that young people need leaving care as they transition to adulthood.

“I believe the Heads of Bill approved by Government will strengthen existing practice and improve the outcomes for young people, especially those who are more vulnerable.”

Under the 1991 legislation the Child and Family Agency has a statutory duty to promote the welfare of children up to 18 years of age.

While care has improved in recent years, there is a need to strengthen the legislative provisions on aftercare, which is for young people of 18 to 21. According to the Department the Bill will oblige the agency to prepare a specific plan that identifies a child’s needs for aftercare supports.

The most important requirements for young people leaving care are for continuity of relationships, secure, suitable accommodation as well as further education, training or employment and aftercare includes advice, guidance and practical support including financial help.

Focus Ireland has welcomed the approval and publication of the heads of the aftercare Bill and described it as a “really positive and historic development”.

The agency stressed the importance of staff and resources being in place to make sure assessments for children in care took place promptly and that the aftercare support and accommodation required were in place for each young person who needed this support on leaving care.

Focus Ireland director of advocacy Mike Allen said “this new development will mean that all children in care have a legal right to be assessed to see if they will need aftercare when they leave once they reach 18. It is a really positive and historic development.”

Mr Allen said the crucial next step was for the Government to ensure the Minister’s department had the essential resources to guarantee that the aftercare support and accommodation was provided for assessed young people and “crucially, where it’s confirmed they require this support to ensure that they don’t fall through the gaps when they leave care”.

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