State Must Not Abandon Young People Leaving Care
Dublin, 23 May 2012 – Young people leaving the care system are falling through the gaps because of inconsistencies in the availability and quality of services across the country. Calling for the placing of aftercare provision on a statutory footing, children’s charity Barnardos said that many young people’s futures are being put at risk because they are not getting the support they need to move from adolescence to adulthood. The organisation said that the tragic consequences of failing to provide adequate aftercare services to young people have been well documented and that the issue urgently needs to be dealt with at the legislative level.
Speaking at a seminar, hosted by Barnardos and the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA) to discuss how statutory aftercare is provided for in England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, Barnardos’ Director of Advocacy, Norah Gibbons, said that the State has a responsibility to young people for whom it has been acting as a corporate parent: “It has been well documented that young people who have been in the care of State, particularly those who have not been in stable, long-term foster care with a family, are particularly vulnerable and need specific interventions to help them move from their adolescence to adulthood. Moving from the teenage years to living independently is a challenge for all young people. For those leaving the care system, it can be a particular anxious and stressful time and they can be at especial risk of dangers like homelessness, addiction, getting involved in crime etc. That is why it is so important that the State puts in place concrete measures to ensure that no child leaving its care is exposed to risks they could avoid if they have the rights supports at the right time.”
Barnardos said that different jurisdictions have different approaches to the provision of aftercare but that the experience of Ireland’s nearest neighbours in the UK has demonstrated the crucial role of legislation in improving the delivery of aftercare services in England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. The separate legislative frameworks have improved the consistency and quality of services and resulted in improved supports for young people leaving care.
Barnardos is calling on the Government to introduce legislation to place aftercare on a statutory basis that is based on the learning from the UK. The organisations said that the legislation must incorporate
- key principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, particularly best interests of the child and voice of the child;
- ensure that young people do not leave care until they are ready to do so;
- incorporates clear procedures and standardised practices such as conducting needs assessments, creating and reviewing of pathway plans and assigning overall responsibility for implementation to key professionals;
- includes eligibility for receiving aftercare support for all those care leavers who require it.
Ms. Gibbons concluded: “All young people need adults in their lives who they can trust and confide in and who can guide them as they start out in adult life. When the State decides to take a child into care it assumes a responsibility for that child. The consequence is a real duty to exercise that responsibility with competence and reasonable care. Where the State has acted in the role of corporate parent, it is crucial that it does not abandon the young people in its care at this pivotal point in their lives.”
For further information, please contact:
press office: 01 7080443
Irene Lawlor; 01 7080423, 086 3980441
Barnardos supports children whose well-being is under threat, by working with them, their families and communities and by campaigning for the rights of children. Barnardos was established in Ireland in 1962 and is Ireland’s leading independent children’s charity. www.barnardos.ie