Headlines: June 22nd, 2007



Business has backed proposals for supporting children in care at the launch of the Care Matters White Paper. The package of measures is designed to improve the life chances of children in care. There are 60,000 children in care at any one time, with as many as 90,000 children spending some time in care over the course of a year.

Big business will offer children in care private tutors, apprenticeships and management training. The individual education tuition programme is being piloted as part of the Department of Education and Skills Making Good Progress project, but will be supported in four areas by the HSBC Global Education Trust, which has provided 1m pounds for the scheme, and guaranteed places on its training programme for high fliers. BT will offer around 450 new apprenticeships a year and has committed to getting care leavers on to their apprenticeship programme.

Measures in the White Paper include a 500 pound annual education budget for each child in care at risk of falling behind in their education to spend on books and after school activities, and a 2,000 pounds university bursary. Children in care will also have their education overseen by a ‘virtual school head’, who will take responsibility for all the children in care in their area, working with school staff, local authorities and carers to monitor their progress and improve their educational prospects.

Children in care have also been given the highest priority in school admissions, with an expectation that they will get places in the best schools, even if they are full. They will also get a specific assurance that they won’t have to move placement and school in the crucial years 10 or 11, and that other moves must take more account of their education and be reduced where possible.

Local Authorities are to be asked to consider family and friends as carers as a first resort, not a last resort. There will be legislation to enable relatives who are carers to more easily apply for residence orders.

Barnardo’s has welcomed the White Paper, but urged that more needs to be done to reduce school exclusions of children in care. They argue that treating exclusions as a “principle of last resort” is not enough without robust measures to ensure that schools comply.