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Aspire towards achievement

Last month the Scottish government published its care review. England will also be looking at how we support the growing number of children and young people in our care, with the specific details to be announced.

As corporate parents we want to support children in care and care leavers to thrive, however, as a country there’s more we can do to improve their outcomes and more this government could do to enable a preventative approach to improving children and families’ life chances.

Children come into our care because of difficult early life experiences and some will experience challenges and stigma throughout their lives. We all have a responsibility to challenge the lazy stereotype that care is a bad place to end up and to be ambitious for what children in care and care leavers can achieve. Care can be a positive thing and the forthcoming review must highlight this good practice as well as identifying what we can do better.

Amongst the recommendations in the Scottish review is a commitment to earlier intervention and keeping families together where they are safe and feel loved. In England, local authorities work to a Children Act which is clear that children are best brought up within their own families wherever possible. That said, a 50% reduction in local government funding since 2010 and significantly increased need has meant we are having to cut or scale back on vital early help and preventative services that enable children and families to stay safely together. Children’s services are not, nor should they be, a ‘blue light’ service.

Early indications suggest our care review will be independently led and will look widely across children’s social care. To this I would add my hopes that it takes a broad view and spans all government departments – locally we work in partnership to support children, I would like to see government departments follow suit. The review should be evidence based and take a close look at other parts of the system that affect the day-to-day lives of children and young adults, including but not limited to the education and mental health systems. For example, children in care should not have to wait several weeks or even months to access a steady school place or be ‘stable’ before they can access appropriate mental health support. Ultimately, children’s voices, best interests and outcomes must be at the heart of this exercise as should inclusion.

Rachel Dickinson is Executive Director People at Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council and ADCS Immediate Past President

This article first appeared in the MJ on 11 March 2020 -

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