Tusla payments to private care providers surge

The State has paid €500m to providers on behalf of agency since 2015

Payments to private companies running residential homes for children in care on behalf of Tusla have almost doubled in five years to €114 million in 2020, new figures show.

The State’s reliance on private companies to run residential centres for vulnerable young people has increased sharply, with more than €500 million paid to providers since 2015. However the child and family agency is set to bring forward a plan this month to reduce its dependency on private facilities.

Some €65 million was paid to private companies to run residential facilities on behalf of Tusla in 2015. The amount paid to private providers reached more than €114 million in 2020, according to figures released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act.

There are more than 5,800 children in State care, with the majority living in foster homes. Just under 450 children were in residential care, with about 300 in centres run by private providers, according to latest Tusla figures.

Residential centres house small numbers in a group home, often with significant staffing requirements due to the complex care needs of the young people.

The number of privately-run residential centres has increased from 92 in 2016, to 120 centres, with the rising costs of placements putting pressure on Tusla’s budget in recent years.

In total 21 private residential providers were paid more than €1 million by Tusla in 2020, figures show.

Highest-paid provider

Positive Residential Childcare received €15.8 million to provide residential care on behalf of Tusla in 2020, the highest-paid private provider.

Daffodil Care Services was the second highest paid provider, receiving €11.1 million from Tusla, followed by MMC Children’s Services, paid €8.1 million.

In a statement, a Tusla spokesman said the agency had decided “a reduction in the level of dependence on private provision is needed”. A plan setting out how Tusla would move away from its current reliance on private companies would be drawn up by January, he said.

Meanwhile, the Health Information and Quality Authority wrote to Tusla in early October, raising concerns over an “ongoing shortage” of overall residential care spaces.

The watchdog said it was aware of cases where children requiring residential care were left sleeping in hotels, under the care of Tusla agency staff.

In an October 7th letter to Tusla, Carol Grogan, Hiqa’s chief inspector of social services, said it was “extremely concerning” that vulnerable young people were being accommodated in hotels due to a lack of residential care beds.