Dáil Éireann - Volume 541 - 03 October, 2001

Written Answers. - Discretionary Payments

654. Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason secondary benefits such as the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance and orphan's allowance are no longer allowed to foster parents; if an assessment has been conducted by his Department or by health boards on the additional costs of items such as clothing, holiday and play-school fees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22523/01]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): A new foster care allowance scheme was introduced in August this year. The allowances to be paid in respect of children placed in care under the Child Care (Placement of Children in Foster Care) and the Child Care (Placement of Children with Relatives) Regulations, 1995, are £200 per week for a child under 12, an increase from £71.55, and £220 for a child of 12 and over, an increase from £85.75. The new scheme incorporates the orphan's pension and allowance. Under the new scheme the majority [477] of discretionary payments, previously paid by the health boards, have been abolished. However, discretionary payments may still be considered for educational fees and medical expenses not covered by the general medical service. The new scheme was introduced following the recommendations made in the report of the working group on foster care, Foster Care – A Child Centred Partnership. The report recommended that discretionary payments made by health boards be abolished and that the allowances be increased to the new rates. The report further recommended that, in view of the new allowances, that orphan's pensions and allowances should not be paid in respect of children in foster care. It was not possible to implement the new scheme exactly in the manner set out in the report. The new allowance is however designed to achieve the objective of the report, which is to provide foster carers with an adequate allowance to look after their foster children.