Less than half of children receiving social care support in England would go to their social worker for help if they felt unsafe, research has revealed.
Published today, the third annual report from the Children’s Rights Director found just 46% of children would seek help from their social worker or foster carer if they felt unsafe. Friends were the most likely source of support if a child felt unsafe, cited by 58% of respondents, while 57% said they would contact the police, 51% a parent and 50% a teacher.
The report – based on 1,123 children’s views on the state of social care in England in 2010 – found many children not being consulted on key decisions about their day-to-day life and future, with some unaware of what a care plan was.
Only 53% of children said they were always or usually asked for their opinions about their care planning, while 15% said their opinions were never or rarely asked. Care leavers were among those most likely to say their opinions were often or always asked.
Of those able to voice their views, only 51% believed their opinions made any difference to the decisions made about their lives. Just over one in five children (22%) did not know whether they had a care plan or were not aware what it was.
“Compared with previous years, the children surveyed are less anxious about their safety and in general there is a decline in bullying being reported,” said Dr Roger Morgan, Children’s Rights Director for England.
“However, the report highlights that still not enough is being done to ensure children are consulted on what happens to their lives, that their opinions are considered and can make a difference to decisions made.”
Morgan was concerned that support for care leavers seemed to have fallen. The percentage of care leavers who said they were being helped to prepare for higher education fell from 65% in 2009 to 59% this year, while 15% of care leavers said they were receiving no help in preparing for the future, compared with 13% last year.
The research also revealed a drop in the percentage of care leavers who were being helped to find employment – from 44% in 2008 to 34% in 2010.
Children’s minister Tim Loughton said that the expanded role of independent reviewing officers, coming into effect in April, should ensure children’s voices were better heard. The new regulations will also strengthen the local authorities’ duties on care planning and leaving care.
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