A new set of standards for children in residential care is aimed at informing children themselves of what they should expect while in care, the State’s health watchdog has said.
The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) published the National Standards for Children’s Residential Centres alongside a guide for children living in residential care on Wednesday.
Figures provided by Tusla in October showed there are 414 children living in 157 children’s residential centres across the Republic. The centres are homes for children who come into care when they cannot live with their own family.
The new rules, which take the form of 29 "standard statements", will replace the 2001 National Standards for Children's Residential Centres developed by the then Department of Health and Children.
The standards, which have been approved by Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, describe what a "safe and effective" children's residential centre should look like.
They are designed to enable a “child-centred approach” by focusing on outcomes for children and driving care which places each child at the centre of all that the service does.
Quality and safety
They also create a basis for improving the quality and safety of children’s residential care by identifying strengths and highlighting areas for improvement and can be used in day-to-day practice to encourage a consistent level of quality.
The standards were developed with an advisory group and 16 focus groups with 142 children and staff working with children in residential care.
Hiqa director of health information and standards Rachel Flynn said the standards would serve to empower children in care by arming them with the knowledge of what they ought to expect.
“The standards show children what to expect when they live in residential care and show those involved in their care what a child-centred, safe and effective children’s residential centre should look like,” she said.
“The standards detail how centres and the people who work with children in residential care can ensure each child gets the care and support they need, that they are listened to, that their rights are protected and promoted and that they are involved in making decisions about their lives both while they are in care and when they are moving on from care.
"As living in care can be a confusing and difficult time for children, HIQA has also developed a new guide. The guide covers key areas such as children's rights, the roles of staff members who care for them, their files and how they are supported to prepare to leave care."