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Children in care to get school pics and passports

Children in care should get school photos and passports, Ministers said yesterday, as they launched plans designed to give thousands of vulnerable children in care a happy and healthy childhood.

The ideas were outlined by Kevin Brennan and Beverley Hughes, as they joined the Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Children's Services to launch Care Matters: Time to Deliver, a practical guide for local partners on how to improve the lives of children in care.

Local Authorities and those working with children in care will be asked to focus on providing stability; listening more carefully to children in care, ensuring every child has a strong, stable relationship with their carers and having aspirations which are as high for these children as they are for their own.

The implementation plan sets out the practical steps Local Authorities need to take to make the plans outlined in the Care Matters agenda a reality for children in care, including:

* Considering friends and family care first
* Placing children close to home so they can stay in touch with friends and family, where that is in their interest
* Ensuring that a child's education is not disrupted by unnecessary change of placement and school place
* Giving children in care the option to stay on in care or with their foster carers after the age of 16, if that is what they want
* Giving children a personal adviser up until the age of 25, if required

Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls said:

"If we are to achieve our vision of helping every child to get a world class education and succeed in life, we need to focus our efforts where they are needed most - on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged young people in our society.

"That includes the 60,000 children and young people in our care system. They are five times less likely to achieve five good GCSEs and eight times more likely to be excluded from school. They are less likely to go to university and more likely to end up in prison.

"I am determined to change this injustice and work to improve the lives and life chances of children in care and the most disadvantaged children."

Speaking at the launch Children's Minister Kevin Brennan said:

"Every child needs a good parent who looks out for them and responds to their needs. We want all local councillors and council officers to be mindful of their parenting role, and give these young people the support they need. And we want those who work with children and young people, like teachers, doctors and police officers and everyone who supports children in care to act like extended family members and share responsibility for helping them to fulfil their potential. I want these children to be cared about not just cared for."

Joining Kevin Brennan, Children and Young People's Minister Beverley Hughes said:

"For too long children have languished in a care system that allowed them to fail - if we are to make this country the best place in the world for our children and young people to grow up, that must include vulnerable children in care too. Our Children's Plan aims to give children the best education, provide places to play safely and have interesting and exciting things to do outside of school - all of these opportunities must be open to children in care too."

John Coughlan, Director of Children's Services at the Association of Directors of Children's Services said:

"ADCS is delighted to support the launch of the Care Matters Implementation Plan. We are particularly pleased with the inclusive approach the DCSF has taken in the development of this plan which we hope may be a model for other initiatives. The care of our most vulnerable children is a collective responsibility but one which is lead by local authorities - the emphasis on partnership within this plan is therefore fitting.

"Contrary to some perceptions, in the ADCS we know that we have a care system which succeeds in protecting and nurturing the majority of children who come into contact with it. But we also know that we can do better, especially in improving the educational and health outcomes of the most vulnerable. We believe this plan, alongside forthcoming legislation, can make a real difference to the lives of our children. That is what they are, all of our children. And that is why we think it essential that all concerned should be determined in their support of this implementation plan."

Les Lawrence, Chair of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People's Board said,

"The LGA wants to work with councils and our national partners to improve life for children in care. We must make sure the good practice going on with these children in many local areas is spread everywhere. Lead Members for Children have an important role to play in listening to children in care and in making sure that local services respond to their needs; the LGA and IDeA are committed to supporting Lead Members in fulfilling their crucial responsibilities to these children."

The implementation plan comes as the Children and Young People Bill makes its way back into the House of Commons for its second reading.

The Bill will make it a legal requirement for:

* schools to have a designated teacher to help the children in care in their school achieve their full potential
* local authorities to ensure social workers visit all looked after children and and make independent visitors available to more children in care
* local authorities to give children in care £2000 if they go on to higher education
* local authorities to appoint personal advisers

Over the next year, the Department for Children, Schools and Families will issue statutory guidance on measures in the Bill and on other proposals that do not need primary legislation such as:

* Virtual School Heads
* Child Trust Fund
* Designated Teachers
* and improving the health of looked after children

The Department will also organise a series of regional events with the Children's Inter-Agency Group to keep up the momentum for change, involving all the sectors who need to play a part in improving the lives of children in care.

Hazel Blears from the Department for Communities and Local Government and Alan Johnson from the Department of Health are co-signatories to the plan.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Hazel Blears said:

"Children tell us that it is often the little things that matter most - like whether they have a passport and can go on a school trip or whether they were able to see their sister last week. The knowledge, skills and expertise to deliver these things is already there in the system - by sharing good practice, listening to and learning from each other, local leaders can ensure every child in care grows up safe, happy, healthy, secure, loved and able to fulfil their very real potential."

NOTES TO EDITORS

The implementation plan is available from the website on http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/socialcare/childrenincare/ .

The idea to ensure children in care have school photos and passports is not statutory or contained in guidance. Rather it is an illustration of how local authorities and other partners working with children in care should be thinking as parents do and act accordingly.

The Care Matters White Paper was issued on 21 June 2007.

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