New Coram analysis of responses from children in care to the Children’s Commissioner’s 2021 The Big Ask survey

  • 23 January 2023

A new analysis by Coram of responses from children in care to the Children’s Commissioner’s 2021 The Big Ask survey found children in care were more worried about education, where they live and family relationships.

A new Coram analysis of responses from children in care to the Children’s Commissioner’s 2021 The Big Ask survey is published today by the Children’s Commissioner for England.

Coram’s analysis of the 2,261 responses from children in care offers further insight and reveals that children in foster care aged 9-17 were more worried about aspects of their life than all other children, including having a good education (24% vs 18%), getting on well with their current family (18% vs 14%), and having a nice home to live in (28% vs 24%). It also found that 10% of 6- to 8-year-olds in foster care were unhappy with family life, compared to 7% for all other children, and 88% of 9- to 17-year-olds in foster care were happy, compared to 94% for all other children.

The report comes ahead of the Government’s response to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care led by Josh MacAlister and makes the following recommendations to improve the experiences of children involved with social care:

  • Every professional that supports children in care and care leavers should have high aspirations for them and support them in every aspect of their lives to pursue their ambitions;
  • Schools should continue to be recognised as a key source of stability and support for children. Schools and primary care networks should be better utilised in supporting Local Safeguarding Partnerships;
  • All children in care should be entitled to advocacy services as standard on an opt-out, rather than an opt-in, basis; and
  • Children’s voices should be given emphasis in research; qualitative work such as interviews, focus groups or more creative engagement work led by young people themselves is essential to convey the lived experiences, ideas and perceptions of children in their own words.

Chief Executive of Coram, Dr Carol Homden CBE said: It is good news that the happiness of children in care is broadly similar to that of children in general. However, this new analysis also reveals that children in care are more worried than other children about some aspects of their lives: education, family relationships and where they live. If we focus on these three areas and listen to children about what matters to them most, we can close the gap even further and ensure children in care have the best possible chance in life”.

Children’s Commissioner for England Dame Rachel de Souza said: “We know from The Big Ask that children in care want the same security and stability of home, relationships and education as all other children. However, too often it is these essential elements of a good childhood that are missing for children in care. My independent Family Review, which I published last year, demonstrated the positive effect that a strong family unit has on a child’s wellbeing and their outcomes. We all have a role to play in providing a shield of support around children in care that mirrors the protective effect of family and allows them to be ambitious for their futures. The publication of the Government’s strategy to reform children’s social care provides us with a unique opportunity to reform the lives of children in care, and I will be relentless in pushing for the changes we need to see.”

Responses to The Big Ask were looked at against a comparable survey of children known to be in care, Your Life, Your Care. Your Life, Your Care was carried out as part of Coram Voice and the Rees Centre, University of Oxford’s Bright Spots programme. which collected nearly 9,500 responses between 2016-2021, making it the largest survey in England of children known to be in care.