This is an important question and the Deputy is correct in saying that some areas in the country have access to a greater level of aftercare workers. The need for greater consistency in the provision of aftercare planning and services has been identified in Tusla's 2019 business plan.
The budget I have secured for Tusla for 2019 will enable it to progress these plans. Individual children in care have very different needs as they approach the age of 18, as the Deputy is aware. Many children will have lived for significant periods in stable foster care and when they leave school they will have similar ambitions and supports available to them as to their peers. Other children will have experienced a fractured and traumatic childhood and will need a range of supports to manage the transition to adulthood. It is for this reason that children who are in residential care and those with identified additional needs are prioritised for an aftercare worker. Aftercare support builds on the work already undertaken by foster carers, social workers and residential care staff and is dependent on the full participation and consent of the young person. We also rely on partnership with agencies such as the HSE, housing agencies and Student Universal Support Ireland, SUSI. While all young people in care should have an aftercare plan with identified supports, not all will have an aftercare worker allocated to them. This decision is based on the assessment of the young person’s need.
Almost half of young people leaving foster care continue to live with their former carers. Some of these young people will be completing secondary school and undertaking further education, while a smaller number may have ongoing dependencies and disabilities. The carers of young people who have been in a stable long-term foster care placement will remain their main support. The majority of aftercare planning is likely to focus on the ongoing financial support provided by Tusla. There are other young people whose situation is less straightforward when they reach 18 and are leaving care. In recognition of this I have succeeded in having young people leaving care included as a separate category for funding under the capital assistance scheme.