Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Ceisteanna (581)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

581. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if a review of the foster care allowance has been considered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5208/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Children)

I have no plans to change the rate of the Foster Care Allowance at this time. However, my Department has begun an extensive review of the Child Care Act 1991, and will examine foster care arrangements as part of this review. This will have regard to all relevant matters including income support measures available to foster families.

I acknowledge foster carers as the backbone of our child care services. Foster care is the preferred option in Ireland for children who cannot live with their parents or guardians, and over 90% of children in care in Ireland are looked after by foster carers. More than a quarter of these children are placed with relative foster carers.

The Foster Care Allowance is currently €325 per week per child under 12 years of age and €352 per week per child aged 12 and over. This payment was protected during recent economic hardships, and it is tax free. It is paid in respect of the child and is provided in order to allow foster carers to meet all of the child's daily living needs including food, clothing, basic travel, education costs and hobbies and sporting activities. The allowance is not considered as means for Social Welfare purposes.

Foster carers receive a number of targeted supports to ensure they continue to function as a recognised and valued part of the alternative care system. Key elements of this support include a link social worker, access to training and support group meetings and the allocation of a social worker for each child in care. It is important that foster carers have access to specialist services to meet the child's identified needs. Respite care for children may be arranged, if it is part of their care plan.

Pre-assessment and ongoing training is compulsory for foster carers in order to equip them with the skills and knowledge to provide high-quality care. Recognising the specific dynamics and the personal nature of relative care, Tusla addresses the training needs of relatives who are foster carers separately. In addition, Tusla provides funding to the Irish Foster Care Association, which offers a range of supports to carers, including advocacy, mediation, training and a phone advice service.