Pinball kids: Children’s Commissioner shines a light on children in care ‘pinging’ between schools, homes and social workers
A new report launched by the Children’s Commissioner for England shines a light on the difficulties faced by thousands of children each year bouncing around the social care system.
- 2,000 children had a change of care placement, school and social worker in a single year
- 1 in 4 children in care experienced multiple changes in their social worker over the same period
- 1 in 10 children in care moved school in the middle of the academic year – three times the national rate for all children
The Stability Index is a new measure of stability for looked after children. It brings together data on care placements, schools and social workers, in order to understand for the first time the type and scale of instability experienced by these children.
The analysis reveals that over a 12-month period between 2015 and 2016:
- 1 in 10 children in care – over 7,000 in total – experienced two or more changes in their care placement.
- 1 in 4 children in care – nearly 18,000 children – experienced two or more changes in their social worker.
- 2,000 children in care saw their care placement, their school and their social worker all change.
- 50,000 children in care (71%) experienced any type of change (placement, school or social worker).
The study also shows that 1 in 10 children in the care system moved school in the middle of the academic year, a change which can be particularly disruptive to education and exams. Children in care are three times more likely to experience a mid-year school move than schoolchildren in general.
While placement changes do increase the likelihood of changing school, the research also found that in just over half of cases, children in care changed school during the academic year without a change in their placement – meaning that other factors are also playing a role.
Research has shown that all children need stability while they grow up, and that a lack of continuity in care and education is strongly linked with lower attainment. Instability in care can also exacerbate existing behavioral and emotional difficulties, making it more difficult for children to establish relationships going forward, which can contribute to further placement breakdown and a deeper sense of rejection.
The Children’s Commissioner’s office ran four workshops with children with care experience who described how instability can damage trust and education:
“It matters for all children that they don’t move a lot.” (Teenage boy).
“I’m not willing to build up relationships again when they’re going to leave again in a few months.” (Teenage girl).
One girl told us she had not attended school for two years because she was in and out of care. Another girl said that she was told by text message in the middle of her GCSEs that she would be changing schools.
The Stability Index aims to improve understanding of levels of instability for looked after children and to help local authorities and schools reduce unnecessary changes. The index will be developed further, in partnership with councils and other agencies, to help them track progress in reducing unnecessary or unplanned moves.
Responding to the recent report, The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, said:
“Children in the care system crave stability, just like any other child. Especially for these kids, having reliable, consistent adults in their lives is critical to helping them flourish and overcome problems they may have experienced in the past.
“Sometimes changes are unavoidable and occur for the right reasons. But when ‘pinball kids’ are pinged around the system, it can damage them and their future prospects.
“Many of these children enter care with complex issues and are highly vulnerable. We must find a better, more consistent way of meeting their needs.”
Related Link: Stability Index: Initial Findings and Technical Report
Latest News from
Why the Government body for judging compensation for the victims of child abuse is getting it wrong20/09/2017 09:20:00
For a victim who has been through child sexual abuse or exploitation, or an adult survivor, receiving compensation for the injuries and trauma that took place when they were a child will never in itself act as closure or make up for the damage that has been done.
Why I’m asking urgent questions about the state of mental health provision for children.14/08/2017 13:47:00
Blog posted by: Anne Longfield, 11th August 2017.
Digital 5 A Day07/08/2017 14:15:00
The Digital 5 A Day provides a simple framework that reflects the concerns of parents/ carers as well as children’s behaviours and needs.
Anne Longfield responds to Government announcement of 2,000 extra nurses, therapists and consultants for children’s mental health services01/08/2017 12:20:00
Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, has responded to today’s Government announcement of 2,000 extra nurses, therapists and consultants for children’s mental health services.