Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has estimated a full year private residential care overspend of €26.1 million for this year.

The estimation forms part of the latest spending review by the Department of Expenditure and Reform, which shows that the Child and Family Agency's costs have increased dramatically in recent years, particularly in the area of private residential care.

Annual residential care costs increased by €40.8m - or 27% - between 2016 and 2019.

Approximately 87% of this cost increase was associated with private service provision.

This compares to a 2% increase associated with Tusla-owned services, and 4% for voluntary services.

The spending review says the rising costs are linked to an increase in the numbers of children and young people in residential care, as well as an increase in the costs of placements.

Placements rose by 12% between 2017 and the first quarter of this year.

There were 55 additional placements overall, and decreases in some service types were offset by 70 additional placements in private 'mainstream’ residential centres.

When it comes to the costs of placements, private contract rates increased in September 2018, to comply with the European Working Time Directive.

This led to additional staffing requirements, according to the report.

The increase arose primarily from a requirement to fund additional staffing, according to Tusla.

In reviewing the relative cost impacts of the different residential care placement types over time, the spending review found that there was an increase in dual occupancy placements in private services and a large increase in private single occupancy placements between 2018 and 2019.

These care types are more expensive than ‘mainstream’ multi-occupancy placements.

The cost of ‘enhanced’ services doubled between 2016 and 2019, increasing from €6.5m to €12.9m across the period.

This increase accounted for 15.7% of the total residential care cost increase (and which was included within private 'mainstream' costs). 

Emergency respite services are more expensive than ‘mainstream’ multi-occupancy care.

The numbers of placements in private emergency respite services almost doubled during this period.

It says placements of Irish Refugee Protection Programme and separated children seeking asylum in residential care services remained relatively stable during the 2016-2019 period.

There were more placements in private centres than in Tusla-owned or voluntary services.

However, the total annual cost increased by €3.3m, or 8% of the total residential care cost increase (€40.8m) during this time.

There were increasing numbers of private residential care placements by Tusla ‘regions’ that fall outside of Tusla’s national residential care governance structure.

The costs of placements incurred by regions increased from €7.4m in 2016 to €21.9m in 2019.

€12.6m of the 2019 regions costs related to residential care services for children and young people with disabilities.

The average length of time in residential care also increased between 2017 and 2020, in particular for those in disability-based residential care.

The spending review concluded with suggestions for future analysis, and the regular reporting of additional data to support the ongoing monitoring and evaluation of residential care expenditure.

Areas for analysis suggested the inclusion of the costs, benefits and risks associated with each of the existing delivery mechanisms: Tusla-owned, voluntary and private services; the effectiveness of the different delivery mechanisms and service types, in particular those that are key cost drivers.

It also suggested analysis on the increasing numbers of young people in residential care placed by the Tusla ‘regions’ and the governance structures underpinning these placements.