A children’s rights lawyer says the current rate for foster carers needs to be doubled or trebled to stem the flow of foster families from the system.
Gareth Noble of KOD Lyons was speaking following the publication of an overview report from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) on the monitoring and regulation of children’s services in 2021.
The report highlighted that many children did not have an allocated social worker, while vacancies persisted in many Tusla services.
According to the report, the watchdog conducted 56 inspections throughout 2021 and found that while there were improvements in compliance against national standards and regulations across children’s services, there was further room for improvement in governance and management and resourcing services.
The report also noted that a Tusla strategy for foster care is “expected imminently” by Hiqa.
Mr Noble said:
The cost-of-living crisis is impacting on families who provide foster care, with the rate of €352 per week per child having remained the same for a considerable length of time.
He said: “I think that in order to support the maintenance of foster placements, particularly when we are dealing with a lot more complex cases, the cost-of-living crisis which is having an impact as well, we really need to introduce a far greater system of enhanced payments for foster carers.”
Mr Noble called on the Department of Children to “double or treble” the foster care payments “because that is the only way we are going to get away from the reliance on residential care”.
He said: “What I am seeing a lot is very young children going into residential placements which are very expensive to run. I often wonder if we supported properly the provision of those foster placements, we would be able to maintain and recruit new foster carers.”
He added: “Because of the cost-of-living crisis and complexity of children’s needs, we are seeing a lot of foster place breakdown.”
The report said that a small number of children experienced delays in getting into the care system because of a lack of suitable placements.
However, it said that where children had an allocated social worker who met them consistently, they received a good-quality service.
Meanwhile, Marissa Ryan, the chief executive of EPIC, Empowering People in Care, said that issues flagged by Hiqa, including the need for fewer changes in social workers, and the increased contact between children and families and their social workers, are also evidenced in EPIC’s advocacy service.
She urged the Government “to ensure that the lives and wellbeing of children in the care of the state are prioritised”.
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See the original article on the Irish Examiner.