Children’s residential care system in Crisis
New group calls for urgent action.
Press Release May 17th
Crosscare is one of many voluntary organisations working with some of the most vulnerable children in the country. They have come together for the first time as they say the care system is at risk of collapsing unless there is urgent intervention by Tusla and the Government.
The new Children’s Residential and Aftercare Voluntary Association (CRAVA)is made up of groups providing homeless, residential, aftercare and outreach care to children, young people and their families.
This is the first time voluntary care organisations have agreed to speak with one voice due to ongoing severe problems in the care system due to underfunding, unsustainable pay levels, lack of long-term planning and a growing over-reliance on private providers. As frustration at the ever-increasing crisis mounts, the groups fear the future of voluntary care if challenges affecting the sector are ignored. The Children’s Residential and Aftercare Voluntary Association calls on the government and Tusla to take urgent action.
For over 15 years, the sector has been expected to do more with less. For many of our member organisations, the personal motivation and commitment of staff is the only thing enabling us to maintain quality services. The ability of organisations to provide these essential services to children and young people is now at breaking point, at a time when the demand for the care of children is increasing, with Tusla, on average, needing up to 150 additional places per week. This has led to children being placed in unregistered and uninspected special arrangements while the voluntary sector is contracting.
Despite this, the number of voluntary residential care organisations has remained static for over 30 years. State care services decreased, while private services have increased exponentially and now number over 120 (Tusla Spending Review 2020). The government must act to ensure the sustainability of the voluntary residential care sector in the long term and ensure appropriate support for our most vulnerable children and young people into the future. This should be a matter of public policy consideration.
In 2022 CRAVA sent a position paper to Tusla highlighting key concerns about the care of children and young people; these include:
- Tusla’s residential care strategy
- Placement policy
- Staff recruitment and retention
- Administrative capacity requirements
- Children and young people’s needs – the lack of appropriate support for children and young people in the care system
- Workplace assault and injury
Among the issues the group have identified as needing urgent action are:
Lack of structure for meaningful or productive engagement between Tusla and voluntary care providers: There should be a regional framework for engagement with a defined remit, such as the existing capacity of the current residential provision and the planning and development of new types of residential care services.
The current service level agreement process is not fit for purpose: There is little meaningful engagement concerning income and expenditure based on the organisation’s actual needs in providing services to children and young people, which means that the funding provided is unrelated to the cost of providing the service.
Inequity in the sector’s funding and pay and conditions for voluntary sector workers is unsustainable: Voluntary sector workers have fallen behind their public sector colleagues in relation to pay and conditions – resulting in a growing crisis in recruiting and retaining staff in voluntary care organisations. This results from changes made without consultation during the creation of Tusla, resulting in the cuts of the recession being applied but none of the recovery reaching these services.
Tusla’s failure to consult with the voluntary care sector on their Residential Care Strategy We find it extremely concerning that not only were the voluntary residential care providers not consulted on the development of Tusla’s Residential Care Strategy, but that it does not indicate what Tusla considers the strategic role of the voluntary residential care providers to be, either currently or in the future. As voluntary care providers, we provide primarily medium-term residential care for, typically a two-year period, to children and young people, as well as emergency short-term residential care, aftercare and outreach support.
The growth of private, for-profit care organisations in Ireland: Since Tusla was established in 2014, private care placements have almost doubled, and 300 of the 450 children in residential care are in private, for-profit care placements. Approximately 87% of the increase in residential care costs between 2016 and 2019 was associated with private care provision. Since Tusla launched its strategy to reduce reliance on private care provision in 2022; reliance on private care companies has actually increased – ENDS
Listen Back: Terry Dignan spoke to RTE’s Morning Ireland about the critical issues facing Children’s Residential Services : Crisis in Children’s Residential Care – Morning Ireland
Members of the Care Collective are:
- Crosscare https://crosscare.ie/
- Don Bosco Care https://www.donboscocare.ie/
- Focus Ireland https://www.focusireland.ie/
- Good Shepherd Cork http://www.goodshepherdcork.ie/
- Home Again https://www.homeagain.ie/
- Novas Care https://www.novas.ie/
- Sherrard House
- St Bernard’s Children’s Services https://stbernards.ie/
- Streetline http://streetline.ie/
- Traveller Families Care https://ballyowenmeadows.ie/traveller-families-care-clg/
- The Cottage Home Child and Family Services https://www.cottagehome.ie/
- Smyly Trust http://smylytrust.com/
- Wellsprings https://wellsprings.ie/
- Clarecare https://www.clarecare.ie/