The Children’s Commissioner’s 2019 Stability Index highlights some persistent and unacceptable trends. To start with, one in ten children in care last year had to move two or more times. There is no definition of whether a child having to move home is planned and in their best interests, (and with their agreement), or because the system has failed them. TACT has asked OFSTED and the LGA to adopt a universal definition of an unplanned move, so that we get an accurate picture of how often this is occurring. It is vital that we know what the actual situation is, so that we can focus on reducing this shameful statistic.
More than 50% of children in care have had at least one change of social worker in the year, many will have more than that. This is plainly unacceptable. It is no good saying that it is the child’s right to have a social worker and then fail to provide a stable professional relationship for them. It is time to give children a choice about what sort of support they get when they are in care. Many young people we look after in long-term foster care state that they would rather not have an allocated social worker, it is time to listen seriously to them. A system that is not co-designed by those with care experience is destined to fall short.
The Index reports a significant rise in teenagers in care. It is unclear whether it is due to more teenagers entering care for the first time as teenagers, or because children are remaining in foster care or residential care longer and into adolescence. The good news is that TACT has seen many situations where our foster families have had teenagers make their home with them, and gone on to achieve very positive outcomes. The right foster family can be transformative for the young person who moves in with them as a teenager.
The report is right to flag up the challenges posed by the various forms of child exploitation. Whether these are county lines drug gangs, sexual exploitation or grooming for radicalisation it is important that we find the right safe and stable home for children and young people affected by these issues.
There is much to fix and TACT hopes that the new Children’s Minister will prioritise attending the National Stability Forum and charge them with working with the sector and care experienced children and adults to come up with solutions to the issues that have been raised.
In Scotland the Care Review is proving to be transformative, it is high time a similar review was set up in England as it is clear that the approach being taken so far is not doing the job. Good care changes lives and is doing so every day. The challenge is to make sure that all children in the care system benefit from this.