Research on aftercare in Ireland carried out by researchers from the Social Policy Research Unit
in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work
has been published by Focus Ireland
. The research comprised a small-scale consultation, which involved a review of existing policy and research on aftercare in Ireland and a consultation to gather experiences of leaving care, outcomes and aftercare support from the perspectives of young people in and leaving care, and aftercare workers. It also aimed to explore scope for developing an aftercare outcomes framework in order to better utilise data to improve outcomes and services provision, based on a model being developed and piloted in England by Social Finance UK
. The consultation took place during August 2017 with a second feedback session with young people in February 2018.
The consultation was commissioned by Focus Ireland and was carried out with the support of a steering group, comprising representatives from Focus Ireland, Don Bosco
, Ireland's national Child and Family Agency.
In total, 29 young people and five aftercare workers from three areas across Ireland participated. Findings from the consultation provided some insight into the key challenges facing these young people, the strengths and the gaps in service provision, and the ways in which positive progress and outcomes can be facilitated, recorded and monitored.
The consultation took place during a time of significant legislative change affecting aftercare services, support and policy in Ireland. The Child Care (Amendment) Act 2015
, enacted in 2017, included provision to strengthen the legislative base for aftercare services and increase the coherence and quality of support. This consultation forms part of an existing programme of work by Focus Ireland to understand the impact of aftercare support on young people's outcomes. The consultation, in providing an opportunity to hear the voices of young people and aftercare workers, will contribute to the wider consultation and information process for the National Aftercare Policy carried out by Tusla across Ireland. It is anticipated that the messages from this report will feed into the development of systems to improve services, and, in turn, improve outcomes and experiences for young people leaving care.
The consultation report was presented at the official launch event in Dublin, alongside a panel discussion with members of the steering group to an audience of around 70 delegates from the care and aftercare practice, policy and academic sectors across Ireland. The launch was viewed as an opportunity to highlight the practical application of the findings and to consider the development of an aftercare outcomes framework in the Irish context, including the learning from the Social Finance Outcomes Framework: Leaving Well
pilot in the UK.
Notes to editors:
Jo Dixon is a Research Fellow in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work. She has been carrying out research involving young people in care and leaving care since joining the University of York in 2000. Jo was involved in the design and oversight of the consultation and carried out focus group interviews with aftercare workers.
Jade Ward is an experienced young people's participation and research worker in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work. Her work focuses on empowering care-experienced young people to have their voices heard through participation activities, such as forums, consultation and research. Jade was responsible for consulting with young people from Ireland via focus group interviews and workshops. Jade worked with local in-care and care leaver groups to interpret the emerging findings and generate key messages and recommendations.
Mike Stein is an Emeritus Professor within the Department of Social Policy and Social Work and has been leading research on young people leaving care and vulnerable teenagers for the past four decades. His work has had an impact on research, policy and practice nationally and internationally.