The event, hosted by Coram CEO Dr Carol Homden, heard from key figures across the sector, as well as a care experienced young person and took the opportunity to reflect on what the government’s forthcoming review of the care system needs to focus on to make life better for young people.
Vicky Ford MP underlined the importance of “listening to the voices of children in care and care leavers” and highlighted Coram as an “invaluable partner” at the “forefront of changes in policy”. The minister promised a care review that would be “bold”, “far reaching” and not “filled with hollow words”. She also applauded the recent national adoption recruitment campaign and said there will be a further positive announcement for the Adoption Support Fund before Christmas, calling it “lifeline” for the 63,000 families it has helped so far.
Dr John Simmonds, CoramBAAF’s Director of Policy, Research and Development emphasised the need to build on learning from within the sector over the past 40 years, rather than “starting again”. He stressed the significance of the first 1,000 days of every child’s life and the need for “permanence”.
John added that children’s services should be delivered on the basis of relationships that are ‘safe, open, honest, warm and empathetic’. His hope was that the Care Review would “recognise the fundamental importance of the relational nature of children’s services.”
Linda Briheim-Crookall, Coram Voice Head of Policy and Practice and Shabnam Karmizada, a Coram Voice care-experienced consultant, said that the views and experiences of children in care and care leavers should be at the centre of the government review. Referring to the recent Coram Voice report ‘What Makes Life Good’, developed with Rees Centre at Oxford University, Linda said that “children and young people are experts in their own lives” and that the research had developed a set of wellbeing indicators directly from the responses of young people. Shabnam highlighted three of the most important indicators that affect wellbeing including having trusting relationships, coping financially and mental health. Linda stressed that the care system should not only keep young people safe, but also help them to ﬂourish.
Jenny Coles, Director of Children’s Services in Hertfordshire and the President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), described CoramBAAF’s work as “like a blanket that wraps around you – sharing and promoting evidence-based practice”. She identified a number of themes for the care review to address including the changing profile of young people entering the care system, the need to respond with compassion to the arrival of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and the importance of intervening early and to support children and families before children enter the care system.