Cost of providing State residential care for children rises by €40m

Spending review says bulk of cost rise linked to use of privare providers by Tusla

Tusla is responsible for the delivery of residential care services for children and young people in the care of the State. .Photograph: Alan Betson

Tusla is responsible for the delivery of residential care services for children and young people in the care of the State. .Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The cost of the provision of residential care for children by the child and family agency Tusla has increased by more than €40 million over recent years, a new review has found.

The report, published on Tuesday by the Department of Public Expenditure, maintains that approximately 87 per cent of this increase is associated with the use of private sector services.

Tusla is responsible for the delivery of residential care services for children and young people in the care of the State.

The review says while the number of placements has increased in recent years, there is a growing reliance on private residential care provision as distinct from facilities owned by Tusla or those provided by voluntary organisations.

“Tusla have increasingly sourced both ‘mainstream’ and specialised placements through private services. There has also been a transition toward smaller numbers of children per residential care setting (such as single and dual occupancy services.”

The review says residential care is a demand-led service. However it says that the provision of residential care has been a “significant cost pressure for Tusla in recent years.

It warns that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic could push costs higher this year.

The review says total costs of providing residential care increased from €152 million in 2016 to €192 million in 2019.

“Children placed in residential care require a high level of supervision and professional caregiving. The number of children in a centre (which is a domestic house) is generally between two and six. Staff must work through the night in ‘live night’ shifts i.e. one staff member is awake at all times to ensure the safety of the children. Residential care may include working with a young person’s social worker and other professionals to prepare a young person for a successful return home, transition to an agreed placement of choice or to independent/supported living.”

“Residential care has been a significant cost pressure for Tusla in recent years. Costs have increased year on year since 2016. In 2019, a supplementary estimate of €15 million for Tusla was primarily driven by residential care costs. Tusla have estimated a full year private residential care overspend of €26.1million for 2020. This comprises €17.1million overspend for private care within the Children’s Residential Services budget and €9m overspend on private residential care by the Tusla ‘Regions’. While Covid-19 costs are included in this projected overspend, Tusla have signalled that the impact of Covid-19 will lead to additional costs over and above this projected overspend.”

The review says the increased costs experienced over recent years were driven by a rise in the numbers of children and young people in residential care and higher costs involved.

It says placements rose by 12 per cent, from 470 to 525, between the end of 2017 and the end of the first quarter in 2020.

“In September 2018, private contract rates increased in order to comply with the European Working Time Directive , which led to additional staffing requirements. According to Tusla, this increase arose primarily from a requirement to fund additional staffing. The basic private ‘mainstream’ placement rate increased from €5,000 to €6,000 per week, while the basic ‘enhanced’ rate (private only) increased from €6,000 to €6,800 per week. Dual occupancies were set at €8,500 and single occupancies at €13,500 per child per week”, the review says.