EPIC make this submission on behalf of the children and young people from ethnic minority backgrounds and unaccompanied minors in care and aftercare with whom we work. Our submission focuses on inclusive and culturally sensitive care, improving accommodation and aftercare service for unaccompanied minors who are ageing out of the care of Tusla while awaiting a decision on their international protection application, and ensuring the active participation of this cohort in decision-making processes related to their care.
Over the past five years, data from our National Advocacy Service indicates that of the 1,864 children and young people who sought assistance and identified their ethnicity to EPIC, 374 were from a ‘non-Irish’ ethnic minority background. The countries of birth of these children and young people included Nigeria, Somalia, Romania, Ukraine, Brazil and Afghanistan. Furthermore, the main presenting issues for which they requested advocacy support were in the areas of placements, legal support, accommodation, aftercare planning and financial.
While EPIC recommends that the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth commissions further research and participative engagement with children and young people from minority ethnic backgrounds to investigate, understand and address the unique need of unaccompanied minors and migrant children in care, we also make the following proposals:
Support measures to recruit foster carers from ethnic minorities.
Continue to provide Tusla with the necessary funding and political support in the recruitment and retention of foster carers from ethnic minorities, as well as providing necessary supports in migrant integration.
Conduct a consultation with migrant communities and their representative groups on how best to recruit and support foster carers from diverse backgrounds.
Improve accommodation for unaccompanied minors seeking international protection that are ageing out of care.
Undertake review of provisions relating Aftercare Eligibility Criteria in the Child Care Act, 1991, particularly examining eligibility for those whose protection status has yet to be determined.
Support Tusla in the establishment of a dedicated aftercare service for unaccompanied minors seeking international protection, with particular focus on improving integration for those avail of it.
Establish a link with the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) and City and County Management Authority (CCMA) in accordance with the new local integration model to provide integration support services such as information, accommodation, and other essential services for unaccompanied minors leaving care at the age of 18.
Raise awareness of the resources available in the new International Protection Information Hub, developed by the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS). DCEDIY should further ensure that Tusla Separated Children Seeking International Protection (SCSIP) teams and Children in Care teams can share information via the Information Hub.
Create the conditions for informed participation of unaccompanied minors in care and decision-making.
Establish a statutory framework for the provision of independent advocacy services to children in care, including unaccompanied minors seeking international protection.
Ensure adequate resource allocation to the Child and Family Agency to respond to the increase in unaccompanied minors seeking international protection.
Ensure adequate funding to Tusla to enhance its capacity in provide effective, timely and robust services and support to the growing number of unaccompanied minors.
Implement HIQA’s recommendations to improve:
- Training for staff in dealing with the unique needs of unaccompanied minors,
- Interagency collaboration between Tusla, An Garda Síochána, and the HSE for comprehensive care provision, and
- Policy guidance for the transfer of cases of unaccompanied children from the SCSIP team to local Tusla service areas, where appropriate.
Uphold the equity of care principle for unaccompanied minors.
Establish specific provisions within the Child Care Act, 1991 to support the care of unaccompanied minors.
Ensure that care leavers seeking international protection are afforded the same aftercare support as any other young person leaving care. No young person seeking international protection should be moved from care to a direct provision centre whilst their immigration status is still pending.
Invest in youth work and participation.
Support children and youth organisations with funding opportunities to provide engagement and development opportunities to ethnic minority children and young people in care, including unaccompanied minors across the country.
Support the Children and Young People Service Committees (CYPSCs) across the country to extend and provide tailored support services to unaccompanied minors in care and young people leaving care.