Being separated from your siblings and losing touch with them, not being adequately supported by social workers and often moving from one carer to the next are just some of the concerns voiced by children in care, in a report published today that gives first-hand accounts of their experiences.
The report, Children’s messages to the Minister, produced by the Children’s Rights Director for England, Roger Morgan, is to be presented to delegates at the Government’s conference 'Taking stock of the children’s care system' on 16 November. It reports children’s messages from a survey, and from focus groups and a conference which were attended by Baroness Delyth Morgan of Drefelyn, Minister for Children, Young People and Families. The report will contribute to the Government’s stocktake of how well services are supporting children in care and care leavers and is designed to help to develop future government policy for children in care.
One of the main concerns raised by children in the report is that on first coming into care many are being separated from their brothers and sisters, even though they had wanted to stay together – and decisions are often being made without asking the child. Siblings in care also tend to lose touch with each other as they stay in care. Those who did manage to stay in contact often had to arrange it themselves.
Having proper support from social workers was also expressed. There was general agreement that seeing your social worker less than once a month was not enough. However, children did recognise the challenges social workers faced. One group thought social workers had too many children to work with, and when asked if any of them wanted to be a social worker, the response summed up by one young person, ‘it’s not an easy job...’ appreciated the complex work social workers do.
Children were also asked how they felt about changing care placements and for some it gave them a fresh start. However, others did not like having to keep moving from carer to carer when they did not want to and were often not told why and when they were going to move. As one group of children expressed, ‘You should have some choice – it’s your life’. For some, being moved around in care could be as bad as the problems that had brought them into care in the first place.
However, good practices were also heard such as being able to meet the new carer beforehand and having a trial stay.
Changing placements can also result in changing schools. This can occur when children are about to take their exams which can be detrimental to children’s education if they are to do well at school. On the positive side though, changing school could also mean a new start or possibly a move to a school the child thought was better for them.
Children’s Right Director, Dr Roger Morgan said: ‘It is essential that the views of children are heard so we can find out first hand how well they are being supported and what can be done to improve their lives and future life chances. It is worrying that 54% of young people responding to the survey felt that councils were not preparing them to get good jobs in the future, but we can also see some signs that things are improving.’
‘I am pleased that this report is to be part of the government’s stocktake of the care system and will contribute to an important conference that will play a major part in forming future policy for children in care and care leavers.’
There were many aspects of being in care that children felt was positive, including being able to do lots of activities and having trips and days out - more so than other children. They also felt they did not have to worry about things that they used to worry when they were at home. Over half of the children in care responding to the survey (53%) rated councils doing well at keeping them safe, 46% thought that councils were helping to make sure that they achieve well in their learning and generally 76% of children thought things were getting better for children in care.
However, time and again young people in care expressed that they wanted be treated like other people. 61% of the young people responding to the survey had been discriminated against for being in care, 42% were only allowed to stay overnight at a friend’s house if the parents have been police checked, though this is not government policy and 45% reported having their possessions carried from one placement to another in plastic rubbish bags, even though there have been national campaigns against this practice.
1. Children’s messages to the Minister report can be found at www.ofsted.gov.uk/publications/090117 and the Office of the Children’s Rights Director website www.rights4me.org.
2. Children and young people in care were asked about their views in three ways: focus discussion groups, at a conference, and through an online survey. In total 437 children and young people gave their views for this report.
3. The Children’s Rights Director for England has a personal statutory duty to ascertain the views of children living away from home or receiving social care services. He is now based in Ofsted.
4. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children's social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.
5. Media can contact the Ofsted Press Office via Ofsted's enquiry line 08456 404040 between 8.30am - 6.30pm Monday - Friday. Out of these hours, during evenings and weekends, the duty press officer can be reached on 07919 057359.