I have no plans at present to raise the age for which aftercare supports are made available to 26.
Aftercare services are support services build on and support the work already undertaken by many including foster carers, social workers and residential workers in preparing young people for adulthood. Everyone has a role to play in preparing young people to reach their developmental milestones.
Legislative provision for aftercare has been strengthened by the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2015, which imposed a statutory duty on Tusla to prepare an aftercare plan for an eligible child or eligible young person, following an assessment of need. In response to the new legislative provision, Tusla has developed a suite of policies and guidance documents for aftercare support, which includes guidance on direct financial support.
The most prominent form of such support is the aftercare allowance, which is provided to cover a young person’s day to day costs as they progress in education or accredited training. The core age range for eligibility for aftercare is 18 to 21 years of age. Specific legislative provision is in place for aftercare to continue until a young person is 23 years of age where they are finishing a course of education. For those young adults who are not in education / training at 18 years, aftercare services support them in accessing any relevant financial allowances and support to which they may be entitled from the Department of Social Protection or other agencies. The amount of financial support an adult will receive at 18 years and the relevant agency or Department will be specific to each adult’s circumstances.
It is considered prudent to ensure the aftercare service is fully delivered, in so far as is possible, and providing measurable and improved outcomes for those transitioning from State care before considering any extension to the relevant age cohort. It will also be necessary to develop a firm evidence base indicating that raising the age criteria is of benefit. Furthermore, the resource implications of extending the cohort eligible for aftercare planning and support would need to explicitly determined, agreed with relevant actors and budgeted for in advance of any consideration to change the qualifying age groups.