Aftercare services are support services which 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. Thus the provision of aftercare services should not be regarded as an event, but as a continuum of service building on the skills and capacity young people have developed during their time in care.
A comprehensive aftercare service relies on the full participation and informed consent of young people in the development and implementation of their aftercare plan. It also relies on cooperation and partnership with other key stakeholders, including the Health Services Executive, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, the Department of Education, SUSI, voluntary groups, and community groups.
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. The Act created an explicit statement of Tusla’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. An eligible child for the purpose of this statutory entitlement is any child who has spent 12 months in the care of the State in the 5 years between the ages of 13 and 18 years old, while an eligible adult is any young person aged 18, 19 or 20 who has spent at least 12 months in the care of the State between the ages of 13 and 18 years. Note that this eligibility is not contingent on the child or young person being in care on their 18th birthday. 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.
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. Under current Tusla guidance, an eligible adult will qualify for an aftercare allowance where they have turned 18 in the care of Tusla, having spent the previous 12 months in care, are attending an accredited education course, third level course or training programme as outlined in their aftercare plan, and agree to engage with Tusla aftercare and provide updates on their progress.
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.
While this policy provides the basis for the standardised aftercare allowance, Tusla recognises that some particularly vulnerable adults (which can include young people with mental health issues, addiction issues, etc.) will need tailored support as part of their aftercare plan and this may include tailored financial support. Current policy provides for decisions in such instances to be made by principal social workers and area managers on a case by case basis.
It is important to note that the financial guidance in relation to financial support to young adults in aftercare is currently under review following 12 months’ implementation and a consultation process with key stakeholders is currently underway.