Department for Education
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Next steps for children in care

Next steps for children in care

DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION AND SKILLS News Release (2007/0064) issued by The Government News Network on 17 April 2007

A White Paper taking forward the next steps in the Government's ambitious plans for children in care will be published later this year, Alan Johnson confirmed today.

The Department for Education and Skills is also publishing today responses to the consultation in which plans for transforming the lives of children and young people in care have been welcomed by care leavers and young people still in the system - as well as the professionals who work with them.

More than 12,000 young people in care were consulted on their views on the Government's proposals in the Green Paper Care Matters: Transforming the Lives of Children and Young People in Care, which was published last October.

In the consultation young people said local authorities should make a series of promises to those in their care and 94 per cent said social workers should have more time to spend with children.

Education Secretary Alan Johnson said:

"The mark of a decent society is how it treats the most vulnerable. For too long children in care have not had the support and opportunities they need to turn their lives around. As proxy parents we have a special responsibility towards children in care and so I am delighted that so many young people have taken the time to tell us what they think needs to be done. Now we need to act.

"Children in care should not be deprived of the kind of emotional, practical and financial support that every child deserves. We need to improve the range and choice of care and give these children more stability.

"We will be publishing a White Paper later this year to take forward our plans to overhaul the care system in accordance with the radical ideas that have emerged from this consultation."

There were mixed views in the consultation response on whether the Government should try to reduce the number of young people in care with some concerns that it would lead to children not going into care when it was in their best interests.

But the majority of young people agreed that families should be given a chance to suggest other ways of looking after children before they go into care.

Most young people consulted also agreed that:

* local authorities should be expected to have a "children in care" council to collect children's views;

* their carers should get more training on issues such as health and well-being and supporting children in education;

* they should have one consistent professional throughout their time in care;

* young people should get a £2,000 bursary for higher education;

* carers could be more involved in education by attending events such as parents' evenings;

* young people in care should have the opportunity to go to a boarding school as an alternative placement;

* they should have access to a personal adviser until the age of 25; and

* the choice as to when to leave care between the ages of 16 and 21.

The Government will now bring forward a White Paper outlining further plans later this year and pilots will be run throughout the country trying out some of the ideas.

Launching the consultation response at Millfields School in Hackney, to a group of young people who have taken part and other stakeholders, Beverley Hughes, Minister for Children, Families and Young people, said:

"We can see from the response to the consultation that there is genuine compassion and commitment to making a real difference to the lives of children and young people in care.

"Our duty is to make sure they get the things that we as parents want for our own children. Above all, it's about responding to the needs of children in care in a sufficiently human way.

"Getting things right for children and young people in care remains one of our top priorities and I am determined we stand by what we said we'd do when we published the Green Paper - delivering radical change to enable every child and young person in care to have the same opportunities in life as any other child would."

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. The Green Paper was published on October 9 2006 and can be found http://www.dfes.gov.uk/publications/carematters/index.shtml

2. The summary of the responses to the Green Paper and a Young People's version can be found on the same site.

3. As part of the consultation four national events organised by What Makes The Difference, were held in December 2006 and January 2007 in Exeter, Manchester, Newcastle and London.

4. Four working groups have also been set up to look at social care practices, the placement system, education and our long term vision for the care system. Each group has at least one person with experience of being in care and their reports will be published later this spring.

5. There are 60,000 children in care at any one time with as many as 90,000 children spending some time in care over the course of a year.

6. The majority of children (around 65 per cent) enter care on a mandatory basis as a result of care orders being made by the courts with 31 per cent entering on a voluntary basis through agreements between social services and their parents.

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