Written Answers. - Child Welfare and Protection Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

186 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 170 of 23 October 2002, the reason the information requested has not been made available; and if he will undertake to make this information available without delay. [22045/02]

I am setting out below the detailed information requested by the Deputy which has come to hand from the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards. Since mid-1997 over €171.45 million, £135 million, additional revenue funding has been invested through the health boards in the development of the child welfare and protection services. This has provided for a wide range of developments, including family support projects, preventive services and intensive community based services.

Among such projects is the Edge project, a community based service in County Mayo which is specifically for young people who may otherwise require specialised residential care. The Extern organisation also provides a range of services for several health boards, including individually tailored youth support-care programmes, at various levels of intensity to meet the needs of young people both in the community and as an adjunct to residential care service.

In the North Western Health Board region, for example, 22 children avail of the Janus programme provided by Extern which provides a range of diversionary activities, including residentials, day trips, activities, individual work and project work. The residential component of the Janus programme is delivered at the Youth Village, Roscor, County Fermanagh.

Extern also delivers a Time Out programme which provides a residential break for children aged between ten and 16 years of age who are assessed by the referring social worker as being in need of time away from their presenting circumstances. The Time Out placements take place for up to a maximum of four days and are located at the Youth Village in Fermanagh. The Time Out programme is currently delivering a service to 44 children in the North Western Health Board as well as several other children in other health board areas.

In the eastern region in the Northern Area Health Board, my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, recently launched the national pilot of the Youth Advocacy Programme, YAP. The purpose of the YAP pilot programme is to provide a community based service for non-offending high risk young people, particularly those with challenging behaviour and serves as an alternative to residential care. The preventative and reunification services provided will aim to reduce the number of children entering out of home placement as well as reducing the overall length of stay of children in care. The Eastern Regional Health Authority, the Northern Area Health Board, Youth Advocacy Programme Incorporated, Extern and the Department of Health and Children have collaborated closely to put this programme in place and will oversee the pilot.

Capital investment of approximately €40 million is being made available by the Government through the health boards to put in place additional high support and special care places to provide for a small group of children who need more intensive intervention than mainstream residential or fostercare services. I have been informed by the health boards that facilities with 128 high support and special care places, including individual high support packages, are in place and 58 of these places are currently occupied. There are a number of reasons for this, including the need to introduce newly established units on a phased basis, refurbishment work and the need to recruit and train additional staff. This compares with a total of 17 such places in 1996.
In the eastern region there are two high support units. The Creag Arann high support unit located in the South Western Area Health Board has six places, four of which are currently occupied. The 24 place Crannog Nua high support unit located in the Northern Area Health Board has recently opened and will be brought on stream on a phased basis. One of the three-eight place units is open and currently has two residents in place. The area board hopes to have two more residents in place by the end of this month and a further two by the end of February 2003 contingent on sufficient staff being recruited and trained.
Also in the eastern region is the Ballydowd special care unit in the South Western Area Health Board which provides a national service for young people aged 11 to 17 years with capacity for 18 young people. The facility is currently undergoing an extensive refurbishment programme and capacity is currently temporarily reduced to six. Current occupancy is five and another five children are scheduled for admission in December. Following the very positive response to its recent recruitment campaign the South Western Area Health Board, which has operational responsibility for the Ballydowd service, expects that the service will be working to full capacity by the end of February 2003 when the refurbishment and recruitment have been completed. It is anticipated that the Ballydowd service will incorporate a "step down" facility with capacity for six young people in addition to the 18 places on site.
In the Mid-Western Health Board area there are 20 high support places in four five-place units at Elm House, Drombanna, County Limerick, Green Meadows, Moyhill, County Clare, Cré House, Roscrea, County Tipperary and Brookside Lodge, O'Briensbridge, County Clare. There are currently three children in residence in each of these units. There are also five children being cared for in individual high support packages by the board. The Mid-Western Health Board will be providing five special care places for adolescent boys on behalf of the southern region, Mid-Western Health Board, Southern Health Board, and South-Eastern Health Board, in a purpose built facility which is due to become operational on a phased basis by the end of the year.
In the Southern Health Board area the Gleann Álainn special care unit for girls provides seven places, of which four are at present occupied. There are two high support units in the Southern Health Board area. Ard Doire is a five place boys unit with two occupants at present and Loughmahon which is a six place unit for girls currently has five occupants. The North Eastern, Western, North Western and Midland Health Boards have co-operated in the development of the 12 place Rath na nOg high support unit in Castleblayney. This unit recently opened and one child is placed there at present. Five places have been offered and are expected to be filled in the near future. The North Eastern Health Board also has a three place high support controlled therapeutic unit which currently has one child placed in it.
In the South Eastern Health Board area there are 21 high support places in four separate units. In Sacre Cour high support services in south Tipperary there are five places with five occupants, in Wexford high support unit there are five places with two occupants, in Waterford high support unit there are six places with four occupants and in Kilkenny high support unit there are five places with five occupants.
The Western Health Board has identified a special care package which has recently been established to care for one child in County Mayo. Working with children with challenging behaviour is a difficult and challenging task. While health boards have experienced some difficulty in recruiting and retaining suitably trained staff, progress has been made in this area through recruitment abroad and the expansion of training courses. As I am sure the Deputy is aware, a new career and pay structure for child care workers was introduced last year. This aims to ensure that more people are attracted into child care and to ensure that child care workers are trained to an appropriate level.