The three reports published by the Children’s Commissioner today (11 November), show how the children’s residential social care system is broken and is failing many of the most vulnerable children, in particular those who are most at risk of falling through gaps in the system and becoming victims of criminal or sexual exploitation.
The reports highlight the issues faced by certain groups of children in care for whom the system is not working, including the 8,000 children who have three different homes within a single year, the 13,000 children who end up in unregulated homes at some point during the year and the hundreds of children who need a place in a secure children’s home but cannot get one anywhere in England. The findings come ahead of the government’s Care Review, which is expected imminently.
Commenting on the findings, Dr John Simmonds, Director of Policy, Research and Development at CoramBAAF, said: “Residential care is often seen to be a part of the history of our care system rather than the critical part that it plays for many children when it comes to their safety, welfare and development where family placement is not possible. The Children’s Commissioner’s reports set out a deeply troubling evidence base for the residential care system as a whole where it lacks coherence, resources and evidence about what works best in the interests of children in the short and long term.
“The care system is subject to a yet to be announced review. That review must prioritise an examination of the whole system including residential care to ensure that it meets the rights, needs and welfare of every child or young person. And Minsters must be held to account in ensuring that strategically and operationally the findings of this review are rapidly actioned and that residential care no longer operates as it did in the 1950’s and 60’s and now in 2020.”
Linda Briheim-Crookall, Head of Policy and Practice Development at Coram Voice, said: “We should have a care system that helps children in care to ﬂourish, by designing services and providing support focused on what wellbeing is to them. Coram Voice supports the Children’s Commissioner’s call to urgently launch the independent Care Review promised and urge the Government to place children and young people’s views at the heart of the review.
“It is worrying that the Children’s Commissioners report into residential care show so many children have such poor experiences in residential care. Through our Bright Spots programme we have gathered the views of over 10,000 children in care and care leavers. What they have told us about what makes their lives good must be central to making the care system better. Residential care is no exception to this. We should measure the quality of placements based on whether they make children feel safe, settled and supported by the adults who care for them. Children and young people must also be given the knowledge and power to challenge poor care when they experience it, advocacy services are core to this and we are committed to ensuring that all children in care who need it have access to advocacy through our national advice line and safety net Always Heard.”