The placement of vulnerable young people in private residential care services is one of the key drivers of costs for Tusla. Tusla continuously monitors expenditure in the area of private residential care, and my Department liaises with Tusla on an on-going basis in relation to this matter.
Continuous recruitment of foster carers is a crucial factor insuring children are not placed in residential care due to a shortage of available foster carers. HIQA inspections of Tusla's fostering activities has frequently shown a range of creative approaches employed by Tusla areas to recruit and retain an appropriate range of experienced foster carers. These approaches include public events and workshops, and local media campaigns.
Tusla, the Child and Family Agency has responsibility for the care and protection of all children in the care of the State. Where the identified needs of a child cannot be met by foster care, a residential placement may be more appropriate. If the residential centres operated by Tusla cannot meet the needs of a child a private provider may be used. This may include children who require more intensive supports, or situations where Tusla-operated centres do not have available spaces.
I would like to assure the Deputy that children in private residential placements remain in the care of Tusla, and that Tusla continues to have responsibility for making sure that the needs of the child are met and that the best interests of the child are considered.
All residential centres for children are subject to, and inspected against, the National Standards for Children's Residential Centres. HIQA are responsible for the inspection of centres operated by Tusla. All inspection reports are published, and available online.
Under part VIII of the Child Care Act 1991, non-statutory residential care centres for children are inspected and registered by Tusla. The registration cycle outlined under the legislation is three years, and centres are inspected at least twice per three-year cycle. Where concerns are identified, or when conditions are attached to registrations by the inspectorate, follow up inspections are also conducted. Inspections can be announced or unannounced. Staffing and management of the centres are inspected against standards, which includes ensuring that an appropriate number of qualified staff are in place and that evidence of qualifications and CPD are on staff files.