Temporary good fortune

The BBC’s Taking Care season of programmes has offered a
fascinating and at times highly moving insight into the lives of
children in care.

The hurdles many of them face remain daunting. Though more support
is available these days, in many cases the very young people who
need it most are the ones least likely to receive it.

That picture is reflected with care leavers. A new report from a
coalition of children’s charities warns that vulnerable groups,
such as young offenders and disabled children, are lagging behind
others when it comes to receiving assistance with moving on from

Nearly three years on from the introduction of the much-heralded
Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000, we are seeing some improvements,
but progress is patchy.

Care leavers still face a postcode lottery when it comes to the
level of services they receive and there are glaring omissions such
as poor health care, particularly in terms of addressing mental
health needs.

The 2000 act is the third stab at legislation to address some of
these issues. Yet positive change appears to remain elusive.

For an idea of the scale of the task ahead, we need look no further
than the issue of educational achievement. The 2000 act was aimed
at focusing minds on ways of helping young people to raise their

Making it a duty rather than merely a power for local authorities
to assess and meet the needs of 16 to 21 year olds was intended to
achieve change on a seismic scale. But on current evidence that has
not happened.

The good news is that local authorities are pretty clear now on
where their duties lie. The bad news is that this happy state of
affairs may not last. There are increasing fears that leaving care
services will slip further down local authority priority lists as
soon as cash is no longer ring-fenced for that purpose after April.
Guaranteed money has certainly provided the impetus to set up new
services. So why jeopardise that by ending ring-fencing while so
much remains to be done?

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