The Child Care (Amendment) Act 2015 (Commencement) Order 2017 was published on the 13 July 2017. This Order provides for the commencement of Sections 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 16 of the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2015 with effect from 1 September 2017. These sections amend Section 45 of the Child Care 1991 which deals with aftercare, and of significance, will put on a legislative basis a number of the aftercare provisions of Tusla’s (The Child and Family Agency) Aftercare Policy. The changes will affect children in care, those who care for them and, primarily, the Child and Family Agency.
We set out below a summary of the new legal requirements to impact the Child and Family Agency’s current Aftercare Policy.
Key Changes on the Child and Family Agency’s Aftercare Policy
1. Legal obligation to prepare, review and update Aftercare Plans
While the preparation, review and updating of aftercare plans is already common practice within the Child and Family Agency (the “Agency”), this legislation creates a positive legal obligation on the Agency to prepare, review and update plans where necessary. Aftercare plans are to be prepared subject to the Agency's resources and that the Agency must have due regard for its resources when preparing a plan.
2. Aftercare Plans for certain eligible children
The Child and Family Agency will now be legally obliged to provide an Aftercare plan for anyone who is in their care, and has been for 12 months or more between the ages of 13 and 18. If a child was previously in the care of the Agency for 12 months or more between the ages of 13 and 18, but is no longer in their care, a parent, guardian or person acting in loco parentis can request a plan. The Agency must set out in the Aftercare plan the assistance they can provide to the young person if they deem them to be in need of such assistance.
3. Aftercare Plans for certain eligible adults
Section 8 requires that in certain instances the Child and Family Agency will be required to prepare an Aftercare plan for an eligible adult where any need is identified in an assessment of need carried out in respect of the eligible adult, setting out the assistance that the Child and Family Agency may provide to the eligible adult to meet the needs identified in the assessment
4. Needs assessment required prior to preparation of Aftercare Plans
Section 6 of the 2015 Act requires the Child and Family Agency to carry out an assessment of need before an Aftercare plan is prepared. This assessment must be in writing. The needs assessment must cover the education, financing and budgeting, training and employment, health and well-being, personal and social development, accommodation and family support of the person to whom the Aftercare plan pertains.
5. New right for a person to review and seek amendments to their Aftercare Plans
This new legislation also governs the review and update of Aftercare plans. Where the person to whom the Aftercare plan pertains, or someone authorised to act on their behalf, requests that the plan be reviewed either because there has been a significant change in the circumstances of the person to whom the plan pertains, or the plan is not meeting the needs identified in the needs assessment, or additional assistance is now required by the person to whom the plan pertains, the Child and Family Agency must review the plan within 3 months of the request.
The commencement of this legislation is a welcome development to support children who are entering adulthood and require Aftercare support.