Foster families may lose out under plans for new payment

Child and Family Agency says new measures will support young people

Young people in aftercare who do not engage in further education or training may also get assistance with making applications for social welfare payments.

Young people in aftercare who do not engage in further education or training may also get assistance with making applications for social welfare payments.

Thu, Jun 5, 2014, 01:00

A new system of financial support being planned for young adults in receipt of aftercare could result in foster families receiving cuts in payments of €50 per week, according to social work sources.

Aftercare is the support for young adults who leave formal State care when they turn 18 and transition towards independent living. Between 1,000 and 1,500 young people between the age of 18 and 23 receive aftercare services.

Plans are being drawn up by the new Child and Family Agency to standardise payments to young people and foster families.

At present, foster families receive up to €350 per week to care for young people in aftercare who are in full-time education. The level of support has varied in different parts of the State.

Under the proposals, a national €300 aftercare payment would be divided between the young person in education and their foster parents. This would result in a financial loss for some families, according to informed sources. However, it would represent an increase in areas where financial support for aftercare has been poor.

The move to standardise the payments – still under discussion – has the broad support of representative groups for foster carers and young people in care.

Foster family shortage

Some social workers fear foster families who face losing out financially may opt not to keep children on in aftercare. Demand for foster places in some areas outstrips supply and has led to recruitment drives by authorities to find additional foster parents.

The number of children in State care has risen to more than 6,000 in recent years, the vast majority of whom are cared for by foster parents.

Until now there has been no obligation on the State to provide aftercare services for those who turn 18. But legislation being drafted will oblige the Child and Family Agency to prepare aftercare plans for all young adults when they leave formal State care.

Agency confirms plan

In a statement, the agency confirmed that plans to standardise a financial package for young people in aftercare and attending third-level education were under discussion.

Young people in aftercare who do not engage in further education or training may also get assistance with making applications for social welfare payments, as well as rent deposits and other forms of financial assistance, it said.

A spokeswoman for the Irish Foster Care Association said it welcomed moves to standardise payments but expressed concern about young people who left care and did not have access to education. “These are the young people at greatest risk of falling through the cracks. We need to ensure that they have all the support they need,” she said.

Epic, which represents young people in care, broadly welcomed the plan, while expressing similar concern for more vulnerable young people leaving the care system.