Headlines: October 9th, 2006

NEED FOR RADICAL REFORM OF CHILDREN IN CARE

 

NCH, the children’s charity, has called for a radical reform of the care system in order to address the stark gap in achievements and lifestyle between children in care and others. The call comes on the day the green paper is published. The charity, which works with more children in care than any other, is calling on the Government to include in the green paper the prevention of children going into care, increased focus on mental health and well-being and improved support for care leavers.

The 60,000 children in care have dramatically different life chances than other children. They are three times more likely to be cautioned or convicted of an offence, four times more likely to have a mental health disorder and one in five homeless people are care leavers.

The main priority in the reform must be to prevent children going into care in the first place. Services such as the NCH Phoenix Project in Wimbledon show that working intensively with families to prevent family breakdown can help keep children in their family home. As an organisation coordinating support for children in care, such as foster care, NCH wants local authorities to take responsibility for the mental health of children, all professionals to be trained and understand the needs of children in care, and that children in care have continuous access to a variety of health services.

Young people from stable backgrounds tend to leave home in their mid twenties, but nearly half of all young people leave care at just 16 or 17, often without education, employment or training. The charity wants to see the average age for leaving care increased to 21 and an end to the use of Bed and Breakfast for homeless care leavers. Local authorities must ensure that all those leaving care have the necessary financial support and life skills that are crucial to a successful adulthood.

Clare Tickell, Chief Executive of NCH, says: “The terrible inequality between children in care and others is shameful – and now we have the opportunity to put this right. Every child deserves the care, attention and chances in life that we give our own children and this must be reflected in the Government’s reforms. Only with radical change will this green paper ensure these vulnerable young people get a fair start.”