Health Minister Michelle O’Neill has today met with care experienced young people to hear first hand their experiences and views of the services available to them.
During a meeting with Voice of Young People in Care (VOYPIC), a leading independent charity working with care experienced children and young people, the Minister listened to and discussed key issues directly affecting the group.
Minister O’Neill said: “It is only by engaging directly with young people that we can improve the services and support for them and ultimately improve their life outcomes.
“I recognise that each young person’s experience is personal to them and that we need to be responsive to these needs on a continuous basis. I have pledged to these young people that I will continue to engage with them as we develop a new Looked After Children (LAC) Strategy.
“There are several initiatives in place to support care experienced young people including the Going the Extra Mile (GEM) scheme which promotes continuity and stability of living arrangements in post-care life for young people living with foster carers and kinship carers by ensuring appropriate and agreed levels of financial support are available to assist foster carers to continue to meet the care, accommodation and support needs of these young people until the age of 21.
“I am pleased to invest £500,000 to maintain and extend the GEM scheme for more young people in foster care approaching the age of 18 to enable them to remain in a supported family environment until they reach age 21.”
Acknowledging all the young people present, Minister O’Neill said “I am humbled and deeply impressed by all those who have generously given their time and their personal experiences today to improve services not only for themselves but for all those entering into and who remain in care. It is important to ensure the voices of this group of young people are heard so they can achieve their full potential.
“Much good work has been done in supporting looked after children and young people, not only by statutory bodies but most importantly by kinship, foster and adoptive parents, and I want to personally thank them for their ongoing commitment and dedication.”