With almost 1,000 18 to 24 year-olds homeless nationally, we have seen a significant rise in the level of support needed for care leavers, mainly as a consequence of the housing crisis
The Irish Aftercare Network, which supports professionals who work with care leavers, recently held one the biggest days in its calendar.
Its AGM was held in Athlone, Co Westmeath with over 40 organisations from across Ireland represented at a time of a significant rise in the level of support needed for care leavers, mainly as a consequence of the housing crisis
Young people currently coming through residential care are far more at risk of entering homeless services than young people who are in secure foster placements.
The theme of the conference was Education, Training and Employment.
Supporting care leavers to remain in education and training or helping them enter the labour market are key to ensuring that this vulnerable group of young people can move towards independence as quickly as possible after leaving the care system.
The network advocates for better outcomes for our young people, many of whom face real stigma and challenges when they leave the care system. Housing is a major challenge but there are many other things we can do to help them and education and training is absolutely essential.
Engagement in education is key, but traditionally the system has had relatively low aspirations for those leaving care, and the challenge is for those who leave the care system to reach their full potential.
Originally established in 2001 by a national group of aftercare professionals, the work of the network, especially in relation to the impact of the housing and homeless crisis has ramped up considerably. The numbers of 18-24 year-olds homeless in Ireland has more than doubled from 418 in June 2014 to 938 in February 2018.
The true impact of the housing and homeless crisis is even higher with young people who leave the care system over-represented within homeless service and among the ‘hidden homeless’, or those who stay on friends sofas and the like, and this housing instability impacts on education.
The reality is that young people can be protected with aftercare support. However, if there is no aftercare support young people often become homeless and their lives can spin out of control – sadly sometimes ending in tragedy.
if there is no aftercare support young people often become homeless and their lives can spin out of control – sadly sometimes ending in tragedy.
Focus Ireland, working to end homelessness in Ireland, is another provider of aftercare services and has witnessed a significant increase in demand for its services, as waiting lists grow due to the lack of resources.
The reality is that Focus Ireland aftercare services in North Dublin in mid-May were aware of a waiting list of 35 young people for an aftercare worker and 14 young people are on a waiting list for our residential services.
In South Dublin there are 32 young people who are on a waiting list for a Focus Ireland aftercare worker. In addition there are over 40 young people seeking a place in our Greenhill’s Court aftercare residential service.
There are now nearly 1,000 young people aged 18 to 24 who are homeless, and it’s getting worse. Too many of these men and women come from the Irish care system. It is fundamentally wrong that so many vulnerable young people become homeless when they have been in care of the State. It’s even more shocking when you learn this can be prevented.
An aftercare worker with the time and resources to help can protect young people leaving care. Every young person at risk needs a dedicated aftercare worker. However, many services are stretched to breaking point as staff often have caseloads of over 30 young people. Each worker should have a caseload of no more than 15 to 20 young people.
The data internationally overwhelmingly indicates that young people leaving care overall have poorer educational attainment than their peers and they are also at higher risk of unemployment, poverty and homelessness. In order to reduce the risk of poverty we need better educational and associated supports to promote social inclusion/mobility. The potential benefits for society and young people are huge.
young people leaving care overall have poorer educational attainment than their peers and they are also at higher risk of unemployment, poverty and homelessness.
For more information on the Irish Aftercare Network Conference click here
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