National Child Care Investment Strategy
Mr. Frank Fahey T.D., Minister of State at the Departments of Health and Children, Education and Science, and Justice, Equality and Law Reform, today announced a £28m. National Child Care Investment Strategy. The focus of the Strategy will be on supporting vulnerable children in the family and community setting and keeping them out of residential care. Special attention is being given to addressing the twin problems of homelessness and children who are getting into trouble and coming before the courts.
It is the Minister’s intention to tilt the balance of expenditure in the child care area towards prevention rather than intervention.
The Minister of State is also providing a special Christmas bonus of £100 to children in foster and residential care.
The main elements of the Strategy will be:
1. Department of Health and Children
In regard to homeless children, the Minister has secured the co-operation of Dublin Corporation to provide 5 houses to be used by the Eastern Health Board to provide accommodation for homeless children.
Additional funding is being provided to support existing foster parents and to create an additional 500 foster places. Financial support is also being provided to the Irish Foster Care Association.
Children at Risk
The Minister will be launching a number of pilot initiatives:-
- Additional resources are being provided for high support places for children coming before the courts.
- Resources are also being provided to promote good practice models such as the Community Mothers Scheme which operates in the Eastern Health Board area.
- The Minister is establishing a programme which would identify single teenage parents who are deemed medium risk at ante-natal stage, and once identified, provide a range of necessary support services through the pregnancy and beyond it for mother and child. A working group including senior social workers for maternity hospitals is being established to progress this programme.
The programme will initially focus on teenagers from the geographical locations of the 12 Family Support Projects, while being distinct from the projects.
2. Department of Education and Science
Referring specifically to provision for young offenders, Minister of State Fahey announced that funding of £3 million is being made available in 1999 for immediate work on the first phase of an overall development plan for young offender centres.
The first phase of the Plan involves the re-development of St. Michael’s Remand and Assessment Unit at the Finglas Children’s Centre. Work is also currently in progress on the development of a Pre-release Unit at the Finglas Centre. This facility is specifically designed to cater for children, resident in the Centre, while being prepared for release back into the community.
The Minister of State also announced an allocation of £1 million to the Department of Education and Science for the development of targeted educational responses to certain children at risk. This initiative will form part of a multi-agency approach to the needs of children who are being released from custodial facilities or residential care units or who are homeless and at risk.
3. Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform
Funding is being provided to the Garda Siochana for six additional juvenile crime prevention projects in areas of acute social disadvantage bringing the total to 20. (This will cost £0.3 million in 1999 and a similar amount in a full year).
Additional funding is being provided to the Prisons Vote for a series of programmes and initiatives under the control of the Probation and Welfare Service targeted at the 15 to 16 age group with a view to providing a greater number of alternatives to custody for such offenders. (this will cost £1 million in 1999 and a similar amount in a full year).
4. Department of the Environment and Local Government
The Minister of State also highlighted a special additional £1 million allocated in the Budget to his colleague Mr. Noel Dempsey T.D., Minister for the Environment and Local Government to assist the first Foyer Project in Ireland to give young people essential skills to enable them to become independent.