I thank the Deputy for her important question. Maintaining consistent high standards in residential care is a challenge across many jurisdictions where the work involves caring for adolescents, many with traumatic histories, complex behaviour and ambivalence about their placement.
Residential care is a small, but vital part of our care system and the basis for successful outcomes for the young people relies on the experience, quality and resilience of the management and staff group.
Approximately 6% of children in care - 376 at the end of February - live in residential settings, and 238 of these children live in privately managed centres commissioned by Tusla. Included in this number are older teenage separated children seeking asylum or those received in care from the Irish Refugee Protection Programme.
Residential settings care for a very small number of children, often two or three. Some are single occupancy, where the largest centres for separated children have, on average, six young people.
All centres are inspected against the relevant standards and regulations and additionally Tulsa registers private centres. Conditions are placed on the registration of centres who fall below the standards expected, for instance the number of children in the centre. Centres that are struggling to meet standards do not survive in such a regulated environment.
The majority of inspections show evidence of positive relationships between staff and young people, and the needs of the young people being met.
The Deputy asks about staffing in residential centres. I have been concerned to learn that in some centres there is a high turnover of staff and a dependency on agency staff. I am also aware of injuries sustained by some staff in the course of their work and the impact this has on stability in the centre.
My officials have been engaged with Tusla on the challenges posed in residential care and work is ongoing to provide a greater level of assessment and therapeutic input to the centres from the ACTS Team (Assessment, Counselling, Therapy and Support Team).
I welcome CORU's upcoming accreditation of Social Care Courses and registration of Social Care Workers as I believe this will lead to the enhancement of professional social care as the lead profession in working with troubled young people.
Tusla have developed a programme called Creative Community Alternatives that will support older adolescents at home with proper supports, and prevent their coming into a care placement against their wishes.