Young people and life after care

 

Sir, – Patrick Freyne’s recent article “Life After Care: ‘We’re all just trying to grow up’”, February 15th) made for a refreshing, inspiring read. Focusing on individuals and their experience opens up a very welcome, balanced conversation about leaving care.

As we mark Care Day, readers may be interested to note some of the figures involved in aftercare supports. These provide further illustration on life after care.

Annually, approximately 500 young people leave care upon turning 18, with the majority continuing to live with their foster carers. For the 8 per cent in residential care, many stay in their residential placement. Between the ages of 18 and 23, 45 per cent of young people remain living with their foster carers either full-time or part time. Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, provides financial support, an aftercare plan and a support worker in most areas, with a widespread uptake of these supports. At the end of September 2019, 2,700 young people were receiving an aftercare service.

Young people who continue in further education or training are supported through a standardised aftercare allowance of €300 per week, in addition to the higher rate of the Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) grant or training allowance where this applies. At the end of September 2019, 79 per cent of the 1,585 young adults aged between 18 and 20 in after-care were in education or training.

To support young people as they set up home for the first time, there is a Tusla once off payment paid to a young adult when they leave their placement to cover a deposit and first month’s rent, as well as a setting-up-home allowance of €300.

Stable accommodation is of course a major problem for young people in after-care, and funding is now available to Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) to acquire accommodation for young people leaving State care under the Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS) operated by the Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government. A modest number of 37 care-leavers were accommodated under this scheme between the beginning of 2018 and the end of June 2019, with a further 34 properties in the process of being purchased and renovated to accommodate young people under the scheme. We hope these figures will grow. Many third-level colleges prioritise care-leavers for accommodation.

The Department of Children & Youth Affairs and Tusla are very aware of the small number of care leavers who remain very vulnerable in their adult lives. Tusla after-care workers focus in particular on their needs and wishes. – Yours, etc,

MICHELE CLARKE

Chief Social Worker ,

Department of Children

and Youth Affairs,

Dublin 2.