EPIC 20th Anniversary Article Series
EPIC – The Beginnings
By Mr. Ken Hodgins, former HSE Social Work Team Leader
The beginnings of IAYPIC – the Irish Association of Young People in Care began as far back as April 1995. The Childcare Committee of the Irish Association of Social Workers (IASW), which I chaired, brought together a group of young people in care alongside other agencies including the Irish Foster Care Association (IFCA) and the Children’s Legal Centre; and the ‘Young People in Care Support Network’ was established. This group faded away unfortunately after about six months due to lack of support. The following year, when the IASW was meeting with the Department of Health regarding the setting up of the Irish Social Services Inspectorate (which later became HIQA) the Department offered me an opportunity to bring a group of young people in care, into the Dept. of Health to give their own views on the setting up of the Inspectorate and the Care System overall. This took place in October 1996, and one of the priority items on the young peoples’ agenda was to receive a commitment from the Dept. of Health to provide funding to set up a professionally run organisation to represent the voice of young people in care and care leavers. This group met again a few weeks later in an office in Focus Point (which later became Focus Ireland) and I believe that this was when we formally called themselves IAYPIC (following the Australian Organisation AAYPIC, and VOYPIC in Northern Ireland).
Over the following years, funding for IAYPIC was advocated for at any possible meetings with the Department of Health and with Health Board Managers who were influential with the Department. For example, when our friends in IFCA asked us to run a workshop for young people in care at their Conference / AGM in Cork in November 1998, they then seated our Chairperson, Emmanuel (who was a young person in care at the time) during the reception dinner, beside Frank Fahy (T.D. and Minister of State for Children). We consistently presented the case that:
- It was necessary for the Department to recognise and support the right of young people in care to have their voice heard regarding all aspects of their care and the care system in general
- Funding of IAYPIC by the Department would put it on a sound professional footing, helping it to survive its initial set up and the opportunity to grow
- This was in the interest of all young people in care
- This was a very powerful way for the Department and the Health Boards to be seen as listening to the voice of children in care (good practice).
There were other formal and informal meetings with the Dept. of Health including with Frank Fahy – TD who continued to be very supportive over the years, plus an important meeting with the Eastern Health Board (EHB) (at the request of the Dept. of Health) to get their backing. In March 1999 we were surprised to hear from the EHB that they were giving us a grant of £50,000 (Irish Pounds). Our next surprise was when I discovered that it was very difficult to lodge £50,000 due to banking regulations regarding money laundering! However, after formalising a contract with Barnardos to host IAYPIC throughout its set-up stage, the money was transferred to Barnardos. The Manager of Barnardos’ Guardian ad Litem service at that time was tasked with supporting IAYPIC. Her first job was to manage the recruitment of a National Co-ordinator, and we were then very lucky to get Catherine Carty to come on board with all her commitment and hard work to establish IAYPIC on a firm footing.
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