“History of Irish Aftercare Network”
The “Irish Aftercare Forum” (2001 – 2012/13)
The “Irish Aftercare Forum” was originally established in 2001 by a national group of Aftercare Workers to provide a forum for aftercare professionals to support each other in the delivery and development of services for care leavers. The Forum wanted to promote the development of good practice and quality services for young care leavers nationally in line with relevant legislation, national, international and local policies and research findings. The concerns facing workers at that time included; lack of statutory policy in aftercare, dependency on Section 45 of Childcare Act 1991 and Youth Homelessness Strategy to guide aftercare provision. Workers found the area was open to interpretation, widespread discretionary provision, non-implementation of care plans, and lack of planning with and for young people, with some being referred to Homeless Services.
Recommendations from “The Irish Aftercare Forum”
- Need for a National Policy
- Young people need an input in shaping, informing and reviewing Leaving & Aftercare Services.
- A care plan for each young person should empower, enable and promote their ability to become independent
- Standardisation on areas of entitlement, in finance, accommodation, training, education and support work.
- Multiagency partnerships needed to fully function in aftercare provisions
- Clear commitment to fully resourcing and implementing a statutory aftercare policy
- Multi-agency partnerships within Government Departments to be involved in aftercare planning i.e. Education, Health, Environment, to ensure streamlined access to entitlements.
- To develop a strategic plan to outline future objectives and action.
- Establish a National /International identity as an Aftercare Forum
The Irish Aftercare Forum continued to meet at least 4 times per year from 2001 to 2012 and lobbied on various issues. However, during 2012/13 it became somewhat dormant.
The “Irish Aftercare Network” (2013 – Present Day)
Due to mounting concerns in relation to the difficulties young people were facing leaving state care; a group of Aftercare Workers came together and expressed an interest in re-establishing the national support network again. They approached “Breaking Through”, a national network for people who work with vulnerable people and groups who are at risk (http://www.breakingthrough.org). “Breaking Through” agreed to assist them in re-establishing this.
“Breaking Through” subsequently coordinated and hosted a seminar on 13th June 2013, titled “Aftercare – What is it?”
This seminar was attended by over 80 professionals working in the Aftercare sector and key speakers at the seminar were;
- Siobhan Mugan, HSE, National Specialist in Leaving & Alternative Care,
- Deirdre Coyle, Social Care commission lead for Children & Families-Health & Social Care N.I.
- Jennifer Gargan, Director, EPIC (Empowering People in Care) and
- Danielle Kelly, a young care leaver who spoke about her personal experience.
The high level of participation, goodwill, drive and commitment displayed by the workers attending the seminar was evident, ensuring that key messages and recommendations were conveyed to the decision and policy makers to further the rights of all young people leaving care. As a result of focus groups and round table discussions on the day, a decision was made among the attendees that the network should be re-established. A number of people volunteered to spearhead the re-establishment of the network which would be overseen by “Breaking Through” for an interim period of time.
A date was agreed for the first steering committee meeting.
On 03rd September 2013, following this group meeting in Cassidy’s Hotel, Parnell Square, Dublin, a new steering committee was elected to the “Irish Aftercare Network“.
Achievements & Benefits of the Network:
o The Network provides a positive symbol of energy and dedication for Aftercare Workers
o The Network provides a national forum for Aftercare Workers to register their voice collectively
o The Network also provides a support forum for Aftercare professionals to share their knowledge and expertise
o The Network provides a lobbying platform for all Aftercare workers
o The Network assists in recognising and identifying the need for further aftercare supports
o To oversee that effective and quality responses are developed for the service nationally
o To ensure that the service provision of Aftercare will advance the rights of young care leavers
o Development of website irishaftercare.com
Since then, (May 2015) the Irish Aftercare Network has grown in members and in participating committee members. Breaking Through have continued to support and assist the IAN in growing further nationally in order to support all professionals working in the Aftercare sector and in organising very successful IAN seminars with all its members.