TACT is heartened by aspects of the Children Commissioner for England’s report into Supported Accommodation. The report has much to commend it in terms of recommendations and engages with the issues positively and with a strong focus on the welfare and best interest of children.
We particularly concur with what Dame Rachel de Souza says in her foreword:
“To me it is clear that these reforms do not go far enough. The proposed reforms, as they are, mean that children aged 16 and 17 can still be placed in settings where they legally cannot receive this much needed care. While I welcome the intention to drive up standards in this sector, I believe that these standards should be viewed as an interim step with a clear expiry date. My ultimate aim is to get to a point where every child in care is living in a setting that is able to provide them with care rather than just support”
This sentiment and statement of intent will please the overwhelming majority of the children’s social care workforce. The absence of care is not something that any reasonable parent would tolerate for their own child. The fact the state is still prepared to look the other way for the children in its care is extremely poor parenting.
The one area where it might have gone further is in engaging with how we have got to where we are with an entire ‘care-less’ sector of the care system.
TACT CEO Andy Elvin said: “The professionals who one might expect to see leading the charge to demand that all children in care receive care, are those at the ADCS (Association of Directors for Children’s Services) and LGA (Local Government Association). The fact that they are not in the vanguard on this issue is a function of money and the marketisation of care.”
Andy added: ”Sadly local authorities have been forced into a position where they have become dependent on unregulated accommodation. This had led to a kind of social care Stockholm syndrome whereby they even, at times, defend the need for such accommodation.”
This dependency has been caused by a shortage of foster homes for older teenagers, and the fact that residential care is excessively expensive with homes often in the wrong place. Cash-strapped local authorities are terrified that should the need to provide care and meet care standards be applied to the sector that this will push up costs.
Hopefully the DfE response to the Care Review will engage with this issue, and end the failed ‘market’ experiment in children’s social care.
We need a relentless focus on providing the best possible childhoods for those in our care and lifelong support of them, not another opportunity for private equity and private capital to profit from the most vulnerable in our society.