Pathways: A Guide For Young People Leaving Care
‘’Pathways ‘’ – A Guidebook For Young People Leaving Care Launched Today
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald, TD to-day launched Pathways: a guidebook for young people leaving care. EPIC, Focus Ireland and Empower Ireland came together to develop the guidebook. Through their experience of working directly with young people, they identified that there was a pressing need for young people to have access to a comprehensive range of information. “Pathways“ was drafted in full consultation and collaboration with young care leavers, to ensure it was written and designed in a way that would be easily accessible and understood. The guide is now being distributed nationally to every young person who needs one and to their careers.
Speaking at the launch event Minister Fitzgerald said: “I am pleased to officially launch this new Pathways guidebook. The information it provides will help young people leaving care to make a smooth transition to all of the elements of adult life. Young people need support in moving towards independent living and the aftercare services provided by the HSE, working with organisations such as EPIC, Focus Ireland and Empower Ireland, deliver these important practical and personal supports for young people leaving care.”
It has now been recognised that young people leaving care need additional supports beyond the age of 18. Research has shown that care leavers are at greater risk of experiencing multiple deprivations, including homelessness, poverty, isolation and mental health issues.
Focus Ireland, EPIC and Empower Ireland have campaigned for many years for a legal right to aftercare. The organisation’s acknowledge and welcome the commitment from both Minister Fitzgerald and Gordon Jeyes, National Director of Children and Family Services, to providing comprehensive quality aftercare to all young people in need of such support and welcome the development in 2011 of the National Aftercare Policy, but have serious concerns that this has not yet been implemented. There are still young people across the country who have not yet been able to access aftercare supports despite their need for such services.
Focus Ireland, EPIC and Empower Ireland stressed that it is vital that the resources must be put in place as a matter of urgency to ensure that aftercare support & accommodation as required are in place and provided for young people as needed. All three organisations welcomed the fact that services and supports for care-leavers have improved in recent years, but highlighted that there is still much work to be done to protect all vulnerable young people leaving care.
Speaking at the event, Focus Ireland Services Manager Neil Forsyth said: “Focus Ireland services work directly to support young people in the most vulnerable situations when they have fallen out of the care system before 18 and also with many others after they leave care at 18. Our work in this area has shown that without access to aftercare support and accommodation, some young people become homeless. This guide will help to address this issue by providing early access to information, but it must be backed up by making sure the resources are put in place to provide aftercare support and accommodation when and where it is needed around the country.”
CEO of EPIC, Jennifer Gargan, said: “Whilst acknowledging that much good work has been done and services have improve, EPIC meets young people every day who fall through the gaps in the system and who are left vulnerable and at risk without adequate supports. There is still much more work for all of us to do in partnership to help ensure we protect the most vulnerable young people – both when they leave care at 18 and while they are in the care of the State.”
Maurice Fenton of Empower Ireland spoke of the great stress faced by young people leaving care.
He said: “Care leavers today must negotiate a pathway from childhood to adulthood within accelerated and condensed timeframe. For some, it is the added stress associated with the uncertainty of what supports will or won’t be available to them when they become 18 years old that causes inordinate distress and anxiety. This can impact on their mental health or manifest behaviourally as symptoms of the stress. Childhood no longer ends at 18 and in a world laden with uncertainty and risk for all, we must strive to protect the vulnerable who are most impacted by these national and global forces and our current permissive legislation, despite the best intent by the State and HSE, is not providing sufficient protection for care leavers.”
EPIC: – EPIC (formerly IAYPIC) is an independent association that works throughout the Republic of Ireland, with and for children and young people who are currently living in care or who have had an experience of living in care. This includes those in residential care, foster care, hostel, high support & special care. EPIC also works with young people preparing to leave care and in aftercare.
Focus Ireland: – Focus Ireland’s aftercare services in Dublin provided accommodation for 32 young people leaving care last year and also supported 130 young care leavers to settle into accommodation in local communities. The charity also provides an aftercare service for young people leaving care/or at risk of homelessness in Waterford.
Empower Ireland: Empower Ireland isthe business name of Maurice Fenton. Maurice has worked with care leavers over a 19 year period in statutory, voluntary and private sectors. He established Empower Ireland in 2009 to both develop empowerment services for care leavers and to highlight the issues associated with leaving care in Ireland.