Aftercare is a term used to describe the planning and support put in place to meet the needs of a young person who is leaving statutory care at 18 years of age, to assist him/her in making the transition to independent living. It is essential that all young people leaving care are provided with the type of transitional support that their individual situation requires.
The Child Care Act 1991 provides that the core eligible age range for aftercare is from 18 years up to 21 years. This can be extended until the completion of a course of education and training in which a young person who has left care, or is leaving care, is engaged, up to the age of 23 years.
Current aftercare provision incorporates advice, guidance and practical (including accommodation and financial) support. Advocating on behalf of young people to support their development as fulfilled adults in their community and, when necessary, to link them to targeted adult services, are also crucial elements of an aftercare service.
Between 450 and 500 young people leave care annually upon turning 18. The Child and Family Agency advised that at the end of June 2014, 1,614 young people aged 18-23 years (inclusive) were in receipt of an aftercare service. Of those, 884 (55%) were in full-time education.
The Child and Family Agency has advised that they are in the process of establishing interagency aftercare committees at local level bringing together Local Authorities, HSE and other statutory and voluntary agencies. These committees will develop interagency wrap around aftercare plans for young people, particularly for those with complex needs, including housing requirements. The situation regarding the establishment of these committees varies nationally but it is expected that all committees will be operational by mid-2015.
As the Deputy is aware, the legislative provisions regarding aftercare are being strengthened to respond to past concerns that there was insufficient focus in this area and that such planning was not taking place on a properly structured and consistent basis. The approach adopted is to impose a statutory duty on the Agency to prepare an aftercare plan for an eligible child or eligible young person. The aim is to create an explicit, as opposed to implicit, statement of the Agency’s duty to satisfy itself as to the child’s or young person’s need for assistance by preparing a plan that identifies those needs for aftercare supports.
It is anticipated that the Aftercare Bill will be published in the early part of 2015.
I have also asked the Child and Family Agency to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to those elements of his question for which they have responsibility. In this regard I have been informed that a reply will issue shortly.