Tusla is facing the closure of 24 private residential care beds, adding to the existing concern over pressure on the system and fears over young people being placed in hotels as a “last resort”.
The Child and Family Agency confirmed that as of last Friday, it had received official notice that 24 beds across private residential care services are due to close.
Tusla had already been in discussions with one provider, Positive Care, which said earlier this year it was to leave the sector. It is understood discussions had looked at the possibility of Tusla taking over the running of those beds – there are 15 services operated by Positive Care Ireland which are registered with Tusla.
The situation has become more pressurised due to difficulties in finding placements for some young people, with a recently-published strategy on residential care outlining how more young people have been placed in hotels as a short-term measure.
According to the recent strategy report, which outlined plans to move to a 50:50 split between private residential places and other types of placement, as of the end of last January, there was a total of 126 children and young people around the country who were assessed as requiring a residential care placement.
However, “due to lack of capacity, these young people were placed on a waiting list until a suitable residential care placement is 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 spokesperson for Tusla said these arrangements are “a last resort and while they are governed and overseen by the local social work department, they are not an arrangement that we want to support in the medium-long term”.
“We want to be able to support young people in more stable accommodation, where they are connected to a network of social supports and educational / developmental activities,” it said.
“Tusla is also conscious of the complex needs of some of the young people in emergency / transitional arrangements who, because of the nature of the trauma they have experienced, are presenting with addiction, or, mental health issues and often engaging in high-risk behavior, which has led to numerous placement breakdowns, or, results in the young person coming into the care system at an older age. “
It said young people need an interdepartmental and interagency approach to care planning. “We are advocating with HSE, Department of Children and Youth, Department of Housing, Department of Justice and Ombudsman for Children to progress these matters.”
One source within the private residential care sector said: “The issue comes down to recruitment – we cannot recruit staff at the moment.” They described the situation as “practically impossible”, with one factor being recently-qualified graduates traveling overseas.