Tusla to draw up plan to reduce dependence on private residential care

State payments for residential homes for children have nearly doubled in recent years

Tusla is to draw up a plan by this month on how to reduce its dependence on the private provision of residential care.

It comes as new figures show the State’s payments to private companies to run residential homes for children on behalf of Tusla, the child and family agency, have nearly doubled in recent years.

More than €114 million was paid to private companies running residential care facilities by Tusla in 2020, up from €65 million paid to private providers in 2015.

The highest-paid private provider of residential homes for children on behalf of the State received €15.8 million for its services in 2020.


Positive Residential Childcare reported a profit of €1.7 million, according to its 2020 financial accounts. It has residential centres across eight counties in Leinster and Munster.

In a statement, the company said its staff of 270 professionals provide “high-support care, including 24/7 support, for children and young adults”. The Tusla figures on payments to private residential care providers were released under the Freedom of Information Act.

There are about 5,800 children in State care, with just under 450 in residential care homes, and of these about 300 are in centres run by private providers.

Daffodil Care Services was the second highest paid provider in 2020, receiving €11.1 million from Tusla. The company recorded a €2.9 million profit, and €400,000 was paid to its directors in remuneration, according to its financial accounts.

The third-largest provider, MMC Children’s Services, was paid €8.1 million by Tusla to run residential centres in 2020.

Fresh Start Support Services was paid €7.4 million by Tusla to run residential centres. The company reported net assets of €1 million in 2020, with €280,500 paid out in directors’ salaries and fees, according to company accounts.

David Durney, a director of Fresh Start, also owns New Beginnings Childcare and Residential Services, which was paid €1.1 million to run residential homes.

Fresh Start began operating 20 years ago and provides residential care across 11 homes in Leinster and Munster. The maximum occupancy per home is four children, with between three and five years spent in residential care on average.

‘Massive shortage’

Mr Durney said residential services often deal with “more challenging” young people, who required “a lot of intervention, a lot of care” and could often have had “very traumatic lives” before. There was a “massive shortage” of places in residential care at present, he told The Irish Times.

A Department of Children review in 2020 found Tusla had a “growing reliance” on private providers, which it noted posed a risk of supply of placements drying up if running the homes became less profitable for providers.

A Tusla spokesman said there were “many excellent private providers” running residential homes. However, the agency had decided “a reduction in the level of dependence on private provision is needed,” with a plan to set out how to achieve that to be drawn up by January, he said.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) recently raised concerns with Tusla over an “ongoing shortage” of available spaces for children in residential care .

In an October 7th letter, Carol Grogan, Hiqa's chief inspector of social services, said she understood the shortage had meant some children were being placed in hotel accommodation, under the care of agency staff. Ms Grogan told Tusla she found the situation "extremely concerning".

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times