The Child Care (Amendment) Act 2015 strengthens the provisions regarding aftercare. It imposes a statutory duty on the Child and Family Agency to prepare an aftercare plan for an eligible child or eligible adults. The purpose is to create an explicit statement of the Agency’s duty to satisfy itself as to the child or adult’s need for assistance by preparing a plan that identifies those needs for aftercare support.
The aftercare provisions allow for preparation of an aftercare plan for an eligible child before they reach the age of 18 years, an aftercare plan and request for an eligible adult aged 18 to 20 and review of the operation of the aftercare plan where there have been a change in the adult’s circumstances or additional needs have arisen.
The early years service provisions of the Act allow the Agency to visit the premises where it is proposed to carry out an early year service prior to registration as an early year service provider, in order to confirm that the premises complies with the requirements of the Child Care Act. A number of technical amendments were also made to the Child and Family Agency Act.
A child, who has spent 12 months in the care of the State with either the HSE or Child and Family Agency, in the five years between the age of 13 and 18, is eligible for a statutory aftercare plan.
The criteria employed for adult requires persons who have spent 12 months in the care of the State between the ages of 13 and 18.
Where a child or adult has been in care for any period between 13 and 18 and has also been accommodated under Child Care Act, then periods of time spent in accommodation and spent in care can be combined to meet the 12 month threshold.
The Child and Family Agency is obliged to provide guidance in relation to the assistance that may be provided in accordance with an aftercare plan, in instances where the person to whom the plan relates has been the subject of an interim special care order or special care order and is an eligible child or eligible adult.
The Agency shall prepare an aftercare plan for the eligible groups of children and adults, detailing the assistance that may be provided, once they have reached 18.
The core age for support is 18 to 21, other than in the case of education where the Agency may continue to provide assistance until completion of the course in which the young person is engaged or until the end of the academic year in which they attain 23 years, whichever is the earlier.
An assessment of need is to be carried out in order to identify the supports and services appropriate to an aftercare plan. The legislation sets out the matters to be considered.
An aftercare plan for an eligible child who is in the care of the Agency or who is no longer in the care of Agency is provided for.
In the case of a child in the care of the Agency, following assessment of needs, the Agency is to prepare an aftercare plan setting out the assistance required to meet the identified needs, upon the child turning 18.
The assistance is to comprise the supports and services that may be provided directly by the Agency in addition to accessing other supports and services to which the person may be eligible. An aftercare plan is to be prepared six months in advance of the child attaining 18 or three months before becoming an eligible child, whichever is the later.
An eligible child who is no longer in the care of the Agency or a person acting on that child’s behalf, e.g. parent, guardian or person in loco parentis, may request an aftercare plan from the Agency. Upon receipt of the request, and following assessment, the Agency is to prepare an aftercare plan setting out the assistance required to meet the identified needs. It is to comprise supports and services which may be provided directly by the Agency in addition to accessing other supports and services that may be available.
In the case of an eligible child who is no longer in the care of the Agency, an aftercare is to be prepared within three months of receiving a request, or six months of the child attaining 18 years, whichever is later.
The child or young person is to play a central role in the development of the plan. The Agency shall also consult, all relevant bodies playing a role in the provision of services and supports. The Agency is to have regard to resources available to it in implementing the plan.
Where the Agency cannot ascertain the views of the child, the aftercare plan is to be prepared. The Agency shall consult with specific person, generally those in loco parentis, in preparing the plan, other than in circumstances of the Agency deems it not in the best interest of the child so to do.
The Agency may have recourse to a person who has a close personal or professional relationship with a child.
The aftercare plan for an eligible adult is to be prepared within three months of request. The Agency shall consult all relevant bodies playing a role in the provision of supports and services required for the plan. It must have regard to the resources available to it in implementing the plan.
The Agency may consult persons who in their view would be of assistance in preparing the plan for the eligible adult. It is to take place with the consent of the adult.
Where the Agency is providing assistance under an original plan, former legislation, they continue to do so as if that new provision did not apply.
And the Agency shall conduct a review of the operation of an aftercare plan on request by a young person or someone acting on their behalf in the following circumstances:
- there has been a significant change in the circumstances of the young person,
- the assistance being provided does not meet the need identified,
- additional support requirements have arisen.
Reviews are to be conducted within 3 months of receipt.
The Agency, in conducting their review is to have regard to those service providers to whom any such review would have relevance and consult accordingly. The Agency is to have regard to the view of the service providers. The Agency may with the consent of the young person, consult with individuals who the Agency considers be of assistance in reviewing the plan.
Aftercare plans are to be updated following review. Updating is to have due regard to the resources of the Agency.
Proposed providers who refuse permission to an authorised person to enter a premises for a pre-registration visit can be refused registration. The Agency may cause to be visited premises where it is proposed to carry on an early year service to ascertain if the premises comply with Child Care legislation. An authorised person may visit a premises where it is proposed to carry on an early year service in order to ascertain whether it complies with the Child Care Act.