The government must be more radical in its plans for improving services for looked-after children, particularly the worst off, campaigners warned following the publication of a bill to take forward the Care Matters agenda.
The Children and Young Persons Bill, which includes those elements of this summer’s Care Matters white paper that require legislation, was broadly welcomed by social care leaders.
However, John Hill, manager for the What Makes the Difference project – a government backed-scheme run by charity Rainer to tackle poor educational and employment outcomes for care leavers, said the proposals did not do enough for the worst off in the care system.
He said the planned £2,000 bursary for those who entered higher education would only go to 6% of care leavers, while many would also be excluded by plans to provide care leavers aged 21-25 in education or training with a personal adviser.
Hill said: “It’s right to have the emphasis on education but there’s a fair chunk of those kids who are not involved in anything. We know what the outcomes are for those children in terms of drug-taking and offending.”
He called for councils to have a “duty of care” to young people until aged 25, meaning everyone would have a personal adviser and authorities would fund care placements for all those who wanted them up to that age.
Hill added: “Most children don’t leave their parents’ home until 24 or 25. Shouldn’t the duty of care follow that?”
The bill would prevent 16 or 17-year-olds leaving care unless they were ready to live independently, but the Fostering Network said it should have included measures to allow young people to be fostered until 21, something the government will pilot next year.
The charity said without legislative backing, foster carers may not have the financial support to care for young people until 21.
The Local Government Association welcomed the bill but said it would be examining whether the £305.5m allocated for 2007-11 for the Care Matters agenda would be sufficient.
Independent Children’s Homes Association co-chair Alison Trainer said it would “scour the bill in fine detail” and warned the government to back improving quality rather than making “false economies” that would lead to higher social costs.
WHAT’S IN AND OUT
● Enable seven to 10 councils to pilot contracting out field social work services to GP-style practices.
● Prevent councils from placing children out of area unless local appropriate provision unavailable.
● Independent reviewing officers to now monitor all councils’ functions for children in care.
● Delay government decision on introduction of registration of private fostering from 2008 to 2011.
Care Matters plans not in bill
● Ofsted to carry out three-yearly inspections of council performance on children in care.
Education to be at heart of looked-after children’s care
Children and Young Persons Bill
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