I thank the Chairman and members of the committee for making time available to consider our Supplementary Estimate for subhead A.3 of the Vote which provides funding to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. The agency provides both universal and targeted services across a range of areas for children's protection, welfare and educational welfare as well as alternative care arrangements for children who experience domestic, sexual or gender based violence in their settings.
The additional funding in 2019 is due to cost pressures on non-pay elements of Tusla expenditure. There are spending pressures across a number of areas, including legal costs associated with the guardian ad litem service, but the main cost pressures in 2019 relate to the provision of residential care. Children's residential services include the provision of special care, respite care services for children in foster care and centres that prepare young people to transition out of care to independent living. Separated children seeking asylum are also provided for under Tusla's residential children's services. While the majority of children and young people placed in residential care are there because of family problems, neglect or some other form of abuse, others are placed in residential care because their behaviour is too challenging to be managed in any other care setting.
Children's residential services are provided across 159 centres, of which 64 are either directly provided by Tusla or commissioned under the voluntary and community provision of services. Where the existing residential care facilities operated by Tusla cannot meet the identified need of a child in care, a private company may be approached to provide an appropriate place. Currently, there are 95 centres contracted under private arrangements, of which nine care for one child only. At the end of September 2019 there were a total of 415 children and young people in residential care. Of these, 245, or 59%, are provided for under private care arrangements.
I will outline the residential cost pressures. Between 2017 and 2019, residential placements increased by 29% or 92 children and young people. The average cost of each residential place, whether voluntary, statutory or private, is approximately €6,000 per week or €312,000 per annum. Meeting more complex needs may incur even higher costs. The cost of providing private and voluntary residential care has increased. The private contract rate per placement increased in late 2018, principally arising from the requirement to meet rising insurance costs and staffing costs associated with ensuring staffing rosters comply with the European working time directive.
Staffing requirements are a key factor in the costs of all residential care settings. Centres must have double cover, night cover at an appropriate staffing level regardless of the number of children in the placement. Residential placement facilities typically accommodate from two to five young people.
The high cost and low supply of rental-sector housing also affect young people who have turned 18 in the care of Tusla, and this is now resulting in longer stays in alternative care arrangements. The number of aftercare placements for those over 18 completing secondary education and the IRPP, and other separated children coming to Ireland at a later age, such as 16 or 17, means there is a requirement for integrated supports. There has been an increase in this regard also.
Children's residential services aim to provide physical, emotional and psychological safe space in which children and young people can heal, develop and move forward in their lives. This is very expensive but our most vulnerable children must be protected and receive the services they need.
The total cost pressures on residential, legal and other areas of Tusla activity resulted in a figure of €27.6 million in 2019. In previous years, Tusla managed to contain these pressures by way of time-related savings across other areas of its expenditure. In 2019, however, this proved more problematic. Tusla has managed to reduce the overrun to €23.6 million by cost-containing measures, particularly by using €4 million from its 2019 capital allocation. Capital projects impacted by this will be progressed in 2020 instead.
In addition, savings of €8 million across other areas of my Department's Vote have been found to help meet the Tusla overrun. As a result, the Supplementary Estimate required for my Department has reduced to €15 million.
In the course of my discussions with Tusla, I have been concerned about the impact of costs being met by Tusla, particularly relating to persons over 18 years old, that might otherwise be met or shared by other State bodies. Tusla has managed to absorb these costs in previous years but can no longer continue to do so. I am keen to pursue this with my colleagues at ministerial level and I have already initiated contacts in this regard. Ultimately, these are costs that have to be borne by the State. However, if Tusla is increasingly incurring costs that should be borne elsewhere, it will limit its resources to meet the needs.
I recommend the Supplementary Estimate and will be happy to answer questions.