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Two years on...

Two years ago I remember sitting in my garden during the spring time of the first lockdown with so many mixed feelings. There was a sense of sparkle with the incredibly bright, clear skies of a spring I hadn’t experienced for years, if ever. The atmosphere was fresh and yet loaded with anxiety and concern for everyone’s health and welfare in the midst of the pandemic.

At that time, for some children, there was a sense of families coming together, spending time creating joint activities, filling time, and making the most of being ‘locked down’. Of course, this was not a positive experience for all children, but I remember thinking that perhaps re-establishing the value of being together as a family could be a positive spin-off from a very difficult and scary time.

Two years on I am sorry to say the optimism I felt for children and their families has waned and the sense of a generation who will grow up having missed a level of social inclusion and growth over the last two years is immense and intensified for those vulnerable children who we seek to help to flourish.

With more children arriving in the UK from different cultures after traumatic events, there is an increasing potential for more children to be trafficked; children missing from home is a societal issue everyone should be concerned about. A new report from ‘Every Child Protected Against Trafficking UK (ECPAT UK) and Missing People’ found that one in three trafficked children went missing from local authority care in England in 2020, 25% more than in 2018, in addition missing children were missing 8 times in one year compared to 6.5 times for non-trafficked children in the care system.

Several significant national reports and papers are being published during 2022 which shine a light on services for children and young people and so far a positive theme amongst them has been one of inclusion rather than exclusion. A key document for the next quarter will be the publication of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care which I also hope will enable change, allowing children and young people in care to be more stable in their homes with committed care providers who will stay committed no matter how tough the road gets. Children in residential care in particular are often the most vulnerable due to their complex needs and behaviours and yet, as the data from the above mentioned report shows, for some children care isn’t a safe haven and they feel the need to run away, often due to their experience of high levels of instability, insecurity and rejection.

Children in care are not a commodity to command the highest price and be ‘returned’ when they falter; children need love, care, understanding, tenderness, fun and a sense of belonging. Many care staff provide all this and more, with an amazing commitment to children and to their role. Ever the optimist, I hope the care review reinforces that the system needs to be equipped to do this too and provides a direction of travel with clear expectations to enable it to happen more consistently for all vulnerable children.

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