England’s care system is still failing children and urgently needs a fresh approach to ensure local authorities provide good care, based on need rather than legal status.
That was the conclusion of an eight-month inquiry into the care system by eight leading children’s charities. The charities, including the Fostering Network, TACT and the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, made a number of recommendations for the government, saying their research found the care system too often “breaks not makes relationships for children in care”.
When children move placements important relationships are often broken and lost, the Care Inquiry found. The charities also condemned the system for not being flexible enough, and for basing decisions about support for children and their carers on legal status rather than specific need.
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Ministers must give other elements of the care system as much focus as adoption, the Inquiry warned, such as support for children returning home from care or those living with kin carers or in foster homes. Whatever their legal status, all care options must be treated as equally valid and given the same political, financial and cultural priority by local and central government.
Social problems becoming ‘increasingly urgent’
The charities found the problems hampering good care are becoming “increasingly urgent”, with rising poverty, unemployment and changes to the benefits system affecting families, while local authorities struggle to deal with public sector cuts and soaring care numbers.
Robert Tapsfield, chair of the Care Inquiry steering group, said the Inquiry left the charities in “no doubt that the care system continues to fail too many children, and that tackling this problem is increasingly urgent and requires a fresh approach”.
“The message for government today is that we need to rethink care, and how children are being treated within the system. Our report contains a huge range of policy and practice issues, but at its heart is the need for cultural change,” Tapsfield said.
Andrew Webb, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said the Inquiry was “timely and important”, agreeing all care options should be explored for children, not just adoption.
“We know that for the majority of children care is a positive experience, but that the system does not work for a small minority of children. The Care Inquiry has highlighted specific ways to improve the system and ADCS members will continue to work with the government and other partners to ensure that outcomes for children are improved, ” Webb added.
Among the Inquiry’s recommendations for children’s services: make sure sibling groups are always placed together, unless there is clear evidence against this; better identification of children who can return home; find ways of increasing the use of kinship care.
Leading charities launch inquiry into the care system