Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Foster Parents Clothing Grant.

1.

asked the Minister for Health if he will introduce, in addition to the normal weekly allowance, an initial clothing grant for foster parents to help them with the costs incurred when the children come to them first.

Health boards enjoy a degree of flexibility in relation to material support for foster families. In some health board areas such support takes the form of comprehensive cash allowances while in other areas specific payments are made in respect of clothing in addition to a maintenance allowance.

Information provided by the health boards suggests that in only exceptional cases is it found necessary to provide specifically for clothing of a child being taken into foster care. However, where such a case occurs, the necessary arrangements to meet the position are made.

Is the Minister aware of a comprehensive scheme for making initial clothing grants in appropriate cases to foster parents exists in the United Kingdom? Will he consider asking health boards to be sure that foster parents taking on children are not put to inordinate initial expense because the child may have very little clothing on being taken into the foster parents' home for the first time?

In relation to the position in England, there are many differences in the approach there. I accept the point made by the Deputy that there are variations between health boards here in this respect. I will ask them to consider the question of uniform rates being paid and also to consider ensuring that where clothing is needed this is provided by all the health boards.

Would the Minister bear in mind the need to do everything in his power to encourage foster care in preference to institutional care for troubled children? Would he pay special attention to the cost of clothing which I have brought to his attention today?

I agree with the Deputy on the general question of foster care. At the moment I am considering what steps might be taken generally in that area.