The Review asks the core question of us all, what the purpose of children’s social care should be? We believe that the aim must be to make the lives of care experienced children and young people better, by focusing on the issues that matter most to them. We should establish a care system that not only keeps young people safe, but helps them to flourish, by designing services and providing support that is focused on what well-being is to them and based on what we would want for our own children.
We welcome the focus on building, not breaking, relationships as outlined in “The Case for Change”. It is Important that we focus on the quality of the relationships that children in care and care leavers have with the people inside and outside the system. From what children and young people have told us from our Bright Spots findings making trust the cornerstone of these relationships is the challenge – they wanted to be able to trust carers and workers, have people they could trust in their lives and be trusted themselves.
We agree with the review that the state needs to be a ‘pushy parent’. Being a care leaver should benefit, rather than disadvantage young people. The state should give care leavers and also children in care, the same opportunities and experiences as other young people. Like a good parent it should provide a caring, nurturing home, with adults that champion children and young people, meaning they can continue to live where they are up until the age of 25 and flourish into adult life.
“Please don’t forget about us. We are people too and although we may be incredibly marginalised it does not mean we are not worthy or deserving. Often we require more support and care than the general population because of our experiences, though in reality we get much less. Please fix that.” – Care leaver
We are, however, particularly concerned about the young people whose needs are not even recognised by the system. Sadly, in our Homeless Outreach Service we still all too often see young people aged under 18, who are homeless, not being accommodated and losing out on the support that comes with being looked after and subsequently a care leaver. In many cases the associated safeguarding concerns of a child experiencing homelessness are not recognised. Similarly, in our Special Advocacy Service we see children with disabilities who do not always receive all the support and entitlements they should as looked after children. The review needs to address these issues, ensuring all children and young people receive the care and support they deserve.
The review asks the important question; “Do we genuinely have properly independent relationship based advocacy which can support children to contribute meaningfully to their care journey?” The answer is no, it is there for some children and young people some of the time, but as our recent Always Heard report has pointed out, the provision is not consistent and there can be real barriers for children and young people getting the advocacy they need.
It is now essential that children and young people’s voices are put at the heart of the review. That they have the space to set out what they want the purpose of the system to be, what care should look like, how they should be supported to build and keep the relationships that are important to them and challenge poor care where this happens. A National Voice will play a key role in making this happen by working with local authorities to engage their Children in Care Councils to get young voices heard in the review.
Brigid Robinson, Coram Voice Managing Director
To find out more how you can get involved as a young person, or make sure that the young people you work with have a voice, visit our Independent Review of Children’s Social Care page.