The Voices of Children in Care and Care Leavers on What Makes Life Good focuses on what care-experienced children and young people have said about their wellbeing, drawing on Coram Voice’s ongoing work with thousands of care-experience children and young people.
To make children and young people’s lives better, we need to know them, what they love doing, their hopes and feelings. However, the state, as their parent, often does not fully know what matters to the children and young people it cares for. Official statistics used to monitor the care system provide only a partial picture of children in care and care leavers’ lives by focusing on objective measures and adult assessments of how children and young people are doing – e.g. where they live and how they are doing educationally. This does not tell us what being in care is like for children and young people: do they feel happy, safe and think they are doing well? When developing policy and practice in the care system, the key question should be – will children in care and care leavers feel that their lives got better as a result? Care should prioritise what is important to children and young people themselves.
Over the past five years, we have sought to address this gap by collecting over 13,500 care experienced voices through our Your Life, Your Care and Your Life
Beyond Care surveys. These ‘voices’ give an unprecedented insight into children in care and care leavers’ subjective well-being. The surveys were developed together with almost 200 children and young people as part of the Bright Spots programme, a partnership between Coram Voice and the University of Oxford. Working with over 50 Local Authorities we have systematically surveyed care experienced children and young people aged 4 to 25 years old, providing unprecedented insights into children in care and care leavers’ subjective wellbeing and what they think would make care better. What makes this work unique, in addition to focusing on children’s own views, is that by being co-produced with children in care and care leavers, the issues it covers are those that matter most to children and young people (see the Bright Spots indicators below). Our Bright Spots surveys and well-being indicators recognise that children’s experiences in and after leaving care differ based on age and stage and we reflect this, with four age appropriate Your Life, Your Care surveys for children in care aged 4-18 and the Your Life Beyond Care survey for 18-25 year olds.
The Scottish Independent Care Review was driven by those with experience of care, aiming to hear 1,000 voices. An English care review should have the same ambition, but it does not need to start from scratch. We already have over 13,500 care-experienced voices and we continue to collect thousands of views every year. Drawing on the work from the Bright Spots Programme and Coram Voice’s wider advocacy and the Always Heard Advocacy Advice Line, this paper sets out Coram Voice’s position on the framework that should be used for a review of the English care system and our recommendations.