Boy, 15, in State care in Limerick paid not to smoke

David Hurley

Reporter:

David Hurley

Boy, 15, in State care in Limerick paid not to smoke

Following queries from the Limerick Leader, Tusla confirmed that ‘pocket money’ schemes are commonly used in Limerick and across the country

A JUDGE has expressed her disbelief that a 15-year-old boy in Limerick is being paid by the State not to smoke.

And, as an added bonus, the Child and Family Agency's ‘pocket money scheme' also pays the boy to be in bed on time.

Details of the payments, which are being made at a number of residential centres in Limerick, emerged at a sitting of the Children’s Court after the presiding judge expressed her “disbelief” at the practice.

While reading a detailed report prepared for the court in relation to a teenage boy who is facing criminal charges, Judge Marian O'Leary expressed her surprise at some of the contents of the report.

While the judge did not go into detail in open court, she did seek to confirm the 15-year-old defendant was being paid small amounts of money not to smoke and to stay in bed at night.

She indicated that according to the report the teenager is being paid €1.50 per day not to smoke and €2 to stay in bed at night.

This was confirmed by a social worker who was present in court while solicitor John Herbert said it was a way of "incentivising" his client to behave.

Appearing surprised, Judge O’Leary questioned the practice and suggested the teenager should do what he is told to rather than being paid to ‘obey’ the rules.

If the figures mentioned in court are correct, the youth could be receiving up to €24.50 a week – €5.50 more than what asylum seekers in direct provision centres receive.

Following queries from the Limerick Leader, Tusla confirmed that ‘pocket money’ schemes are commonly used in Limerick and across the country.

“In general, children’s residential services operate a pocket money system as you might find in many family homes. This can be linked to completion of normal household chores and, in some cases, can be related to a behavioural goal,” said a spokesperson for Tusla.

The spokesperson added: “For some young people, incentives work very well and help them achieve their goals.”

It is understood the centre relating to the specific defendant is located in the city and is privately operated and is not run directly by Tusla. The agency has defended the practice of paying young children not to smoke - despite the fact that it is illegal from them to do so.

“Tusla is implementing a number of measures to create an environment that promotes smoking cessation and is committed to supporting young people to achieve a healthier lifestyle. Young people who smoke are encouraged not to do so by staff,” said the spokesperson. Tusla says a Tobacco Free Campus Policy was implemented in all statutory centres nationally at the end of 2016 and that it hopes to roll-out a similar policy in all centres during 2018.