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Do children in care get good care?
When the state declares that a child must be removed from their home, we expect a handful of things:
- the child should receive proper support from the people whose job it is to look after children in care
- the child is able to thrive and reach his potential
- that good quality support and care are available consistently throughout the country
There are laws, guidelines and regulations to make sure that this provision does not rely just on the goodwill of professionals involved with this child.
Unfortunately, the reality for children in care is different.
How children experience life in care
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Looked After Children and Care Leavers recently reported on the findings of their inquiry this summer.
The inquiry's key findings confirmed what looked after children and young people we work with told us when we consulted with them.
The inquiry found that:
Many looked after children and care leavers do not always know about their rights and entitlements. Only 29% of children in care and 17% of care-leavers feel that they have all the information that they need.
Looked after children may not be able to effectively exercise their rights. Even in cases when these young people are aware of their rights and entitlements, not all young people understand their care or pathway plans, or can access independent advocates to help them challenge services if actions and plans agreed are not taken forward.
Quality of care and care experiences varies greatly from one local authority to another. The financial support children in care and care leavers received also varies. The inquiry highlighted ‘setting up home’ allowances for care leavers as an example. Depending on the area, this entitlement varies from £150 to £2000. Young people we spoke to told us about a big difference in the availability of services, such as travel arrangements, access to health services and leaving care support, as well as allowances for pocket money, clothes, birthdays and special celebrations, and many other things.
What needs to change
The inquiry recommends that things can become better for young people in the care system and care leavers.
Their recommendations include:
- Professionals, such as social workers and independent reviewing officers (IROs), need more time to spend with the young people. This would allow them to meet their responsibility to tell and explain to what young people are entitled to and what support they can expect from different services.
- Children in care should have access to advocacy and be given the contact details of the meetings where the support and care they receive is decided.
- There should be better oversight from senior people in local authorities, government and inspections of whether children are told about their entitlements and what to do if they do not get the support they need.
The Minister for Children has endorsed the inquiry’s recommendations. It is important to turn this endorsement into actions to provide all children in care with good support they are entitled to.