The government called this week for practitioners to prioritise proposals in the Care Matters green paper, amid concerns only some of them will be implemented.
Tom Jeffery, the Department for Education and Skills’ most senior children’s services official, asked for help to identify the green paper’s most important ideas from delegates at the Care Matters conference organised by Community Care and the National Children’s Bureau.
“There are many proposals in this green paper,” Jeffery, director general for children, young people and families, said. “How do we prioritise these? How do we choose and put into practise those things that will make the greatest difference?”
Children’s minister Beverley Hughes told the conference that the green paper had received the overwhelming support of the sector, and that the government was determined to stand by its promise to “change fundamentally the prospects for young people in care”.
However, she admitted that successful implementation of Care Matters was in part dependent on the generosity of chancellor Gordon Brown in the comprehensive spending review later this year.
“This is one of our top priorities in the DfES in terms of our bid to the Treasury for the spending review,” Hughes said. “I accept that some of the measures in the green paper will need more resources.”
Jeffery said that addressing the health needs of children in care had already been flagged up as a priority during the consultation process.
However, young people in care do not consider regular health checks to be their top priority. A survey of the proposals carried out by A National Voice, which is run by young people in care or care leavers, rated good choice of placements and constant social worker support as the main issues for children in care.
Commission for Social Care Inspection chair Denise Platt told the conference that central to placement choice was good quality residential care and foster care, and criticised the “underlying antipathy” towards children’s homes in the proposals.
Care Matters’ key proposals
● Work with families to keep children out of care wherever possible.
● Consider piloting social care “GP-style” practices that contract with councils to provide services for children in care.
● Introduce a tiered framework of foster care placements
● Pilot the role of virtual head teachers to drive up standards of education for the care population.
● Pilot a veto for young people over decisions about them leaving care before 18.
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Lauren Revans and Natalie Valios