Press Release

Press releases: Minister Hanafin announces massive increases in Foster Care Payments

“First Children’s Budget In The History Of The State”

7 December 2000

Minister for Children, Mary Hanafin T.D. has today (Thursday, December 7th, 2000) announced a major increase in foster care allowances. The foster care payment of £71.55 per week for a child under 12 will be increased to £200, and the £85.55 paid for a child aged 12 and over will be increased to £220 per week.

These increases are part of an extra £33.5 million (estimated full year cost of £50m) for child care services provided for the coming year. This includes the funding already provided for in the estimates last month.

“This is the first Children’s Budget in the history of the State. Children are now at the centre of Government policy, as shown by the publication of the National Children’s Strategy. Funding is now being delivered to make significant progress in key elements of the Strategy, including the elimination of child poverty,” said Minister Hanafin.

“The Government’s commitment to supporting children is evident in the substantial announcements made in yesterday’s budget and our particular concern for vulnerable children is proven by the extent of additional expenditure,” she said.

Foster Care

– Extra £9 Million (£19m full year)

“Foster care is a vital part of the care system for children who come into care. When a child needs care outside of his or her family home for a short or a long period of time, the preferred option is that they continue to live in a family environment. I value very highly the work of foster carers who make this possible for over 3,000 children,” she added.

“For too long, foster parents had to depend on discretionary payments from the health boards to assist them in rearing their foster child. This ‘cap-in-hand’ approach will now end with the abolition of discretionary payments and the introduction of the new allowances of £200 and £220 per week, from the end of July next year,” the Minister said.

The additional funding will also allow for the implementation of the recommendations of the Report of the Working Group on Foster Care, to be published shortly.

Youth Homelessness

– Extra £5 million (£7m full year)

In addition, £5m has been made available to address the problem of youth homelessness particularly in the Dublin area where a comprehensive range of new services are being put in place. These include : three emergency accommodation centres with 30 places two of which are ready to open this month; outreach teams; downstream residential places; appointment of some 300 additional staff in child care services in the ERHA area.

“These services will assist young people who are experiencing homelessness and will also help to prevent at risk young people becoming homeless in the first place. My aim is to ensure that young people who are currently homeless are given the safety and security they need and the support to help them reintegrate into their family and community,” said Minister Hanafin.

She added: “It is equally important that we support young people to prevent them from becoming homeless and this approach will underpin the National Youth Homeless Strategy which I will publish shortly.” Substantial capital funding is also being provided for facilities for homeless young people.

Residential Care

– Extra £7.139 Million

£4.1 million pounds is allocated for the staffing and support of the special care and high support units currently being built.

“This substantial funding will ensure that children with significant behavioural difficulties get the specialised support and therapy they need,” said the Minister for Children.

The reports of the inspections of the residential units by the Social Services Inspectorate have highlighted a number of recommendations to improve the quality of care for children in the care of the state. £2.789 million is being allocated to the health boards to enable them to implement these recommendations, and to develop plans for children leaving care.

An extra £250,000 will allow for an expansion of the Social Services Inspectorate.

Children Bill

– £3.7 million

£3.5 million provided for the Children’s Bill will be used to develop early intervention services and family welfare conferences, which are a crucial element in ensuring that court orders or detention are only used as a last resort. A further £0.2 million is allocated for the work of the Special Residential Services Board, already established on an interim basis.

Children First

– Extra £3.095 million

This funding will provide for the continuing implementation of Children First National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children. These guidelines aim to encourage and help people to report child abuse concerns and to ensure a high quality response to al reports by the statutory authorities.

National Children’s Strategy

– £1.75 million (£3m full year)

The Government’s National Children’s Strategy, “Our Children – Their Lives”, was launched by the Taoiseach last month. The Strategy maps out a plan to be implemented over the next ten year, which will provide a better way for everybody who is concerned with children’s issues to work more effectively together for children and with children. The Strategy and the Budget announcements represents the strongest possible demonstration to date by any Government of its commitment to children through its support for parents, families and carers.

£1.5 million will be spent on establishing the National Children’s Office and the National Children’s Advisory Council.

£250,000 will allow for the setting up of the Office of the Ombudsman for Children.

Family Support

– Extra £2 million (£4m full year)

The fundamental basis of our child care policy is that a child should be supported in his or her own family. Funding will continue to be targeted to assist families who are identified as needing particular support.

Childminders

– Extra £1.2 million

£1.2 million has been provided for the introduction by the health boards of a voluntary notification and support system aimed at childminders looking after three or fewer children.

New staff will provide a range of information, establish networks and carry out advisory visits to childminders’ homes to assist them in developing best practice and thereby improve the quality of care for children.

Adoption

– Extra £660,000

£360,000 is being provided in the area of inter-country adoption. This additional funding will boost staffing to meet the continuing increases in demand for assessment services. The additional funding, which has been allocated with reference to waiting lists in the health boards, will consolidate recent improvements in waiting times for this service. Funding of £300,000 is also being provided for the re-organisation of the Adoption Board on foot of a recent consultancy review.

In conclusion, the Minister said “As Minister for Children, I believe that our policies and our commitment are now matched by finances, to enable us to give all children a better quality of life”.