Closure of 24 private residential beds increases pressure on youth care system

Tusla is facing the closure of 24 private residential care beds, adding to existing concern over the strain on the system and fears that young people will be placed in hotels as a “last resort”.

The Child and Family Agency confirmed that last Friday it received official notice that 24 beds in private residential care services were due to close.

Tusla had previously held discussions with a supplier, Positive Care, who earlier this year said he had to leave the business. It is understood there have been discussions about the possibility of Tusla taking over management of these beds – there are 15 services operated by Positive Care Ireland that are registered with Tusla.

The situation has become more pressurized due to difficulties in finding placements for some young people, with a recently released residential care strategy outlining how more young people have been placed in hotels as a short-term measure.

According to the recent strategic report, which set out plans to move to a 50/50 split between private residential places and other types of placement, at the end of last January there were a total of 126 children and young people across the countries that have been assessed as requiring residential care.

However, “due to lack of capacity, these young people were placed on a waiting list until a suitable placement became available”.

“From January to November 2021, there were 117 placements of children and young people in emergency hotel accommodation (excluding separated children seeking international protection),” Tusla said.

A Tusla spokesperson said these arrangements are “a last resort and although governed and overseen by the local social service, they are not an arrangement that we want to support in the medium to long term”.

“We want to be able to support young people in more stable housing, where they are connected to a network of social supports and educational/developmental activities,” he said.

“Tusla is also aware of the complex needs of some of the young people in emergency/transition who, due to the nature of the trauma they have experienced, present with addiction or mental health issues and often engage in high-risk activities behavior, which has led to many break-ups, or, causes the young person to enter the care system at a later age.

He said young people need a cross-departmental, cross-agency approach to care planning. “We are advocating with the HSE, Department for Children and Young People, Department of Housing, Department of Justice and the Children’s Ombudsman to move these issues forward.”

A source within the private residential care sector said: “The problem comes down to recruitment – we cannot recruit staff at the moment.” They described the situation as “virtually impossible”, with one factor being recent graduates traveling overseas.

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