I propose to take Questions Nos. 595 and 596 together.
The Department of Education and Skills has responsibility for education. This general responsibility includes the provision of early childhood, primary, post-primary and higher education and the range of related provision and supports. Children in care, with the exception of the very small number in special care centres, access these forms of education on the same basis as their peers who are not in the care of the State. For the very small number of children who require special care (14 children at the end of Q1 2019), specialised educational and clinical services are provided by the special care centre.
Education plays a critical role in every child’s life, none more so than children who are in the care of the State. For children who have experienced disadvantage in their early life education can provide an opportunity to break the cycle of disadvantage and create a different future.
Accordingly, educational needs form a central part of care planning for children in the care of the State. In the same vein, the aftercare provisions of the Child Care Act 1991 (as amended) require the educational needs of the child or eligible young person to from part of their statutory assessment of need for aftercare supports.
Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, provides a wide range of data relating to children in care and the wider child protection system. National administrative data on the educational experience of Ireland’s care population is made available in Tusla’s quarterly performance and activity reports, which are published on the Tusla website.
This data provides detail on children’s participation in education, including the number of children in care and the number of young adults in aftercare who are in full time education. The aftercare data has recently been developed further, with figures available from Q2 2018 for the number of young adults in receipt of an aftercare service who are (i) in Second Level education, (ii) in Vocational Training (including Youthreach schemes), (iii) in PLCs, (iv) in Third Level College/University, or (v) in Accredited Training (e.g. Solas). Figures for Q1 2019 show that:
- 96% (3,690 of 3,835) of children in care aged 6-15 were in full time education;
- 91% (914 of 1,001) of children in care aged 16-17 were in full time education; and
- 67% (1,221 of 1,825) of young people aged 18-22 years in aftercare were in education or
My officials will continue to work with Tusla to explore how we can improve measurement of educational outcomes for children in care, as a first step toward improving these outcomes.