EPIC, the organisation which works with people in care, has called for the next government to extend the support for young people in the system to 26 years of age.

The call was made today on Care Day which celebrates children and young people with experience of the care system.

EPIC CEO Terry Dignam said many people with experience of the care system are effectively unrecognised and stigmatised. 

He said the voice of children in care has, until the very recent past, been silent. Mr Dignam said that in Ireland we are just beginning to deal with the very dark legacy of our own history of institutional care.

There are around 6,000 children in care in Ireland and Care Day is seen as one way of addressing the stigma and negative perceptions often associated with children and young audits in the care system.

Mr Dignam said that at the moment children who are leaving care receive support until the age of 21 or 23 if they are in education. "We think that is too short," he said.

"We would like that extended until 26 to give every child and young person a fair opportunity to actually progress at their own pace."

The CEO of the child and family agency, Tusla, acknowledged that while there were a lot of good after care services, they could improve on after care services right across the country to ensure there is better consistency.

"I suppose if any of us think about having to be on your own two feet at 18, that's a big ask," Bernard Gloster said.

He said that they can learn so much from the experiences of young people in care and who have left care. 

Mr Gloster added that their influence in making care a service that is continuously improving needs to be recognised.