Looked-after children green paper published

Education secretary Alan Johnson today pledged to introduce “stability, stability, stability” to the lives of children in care.

Launching the long-awaited green paper on children in care  he conceded that although the government had made some progress, there was still a “huge problem” with children in care.

He said: “The whole basis of this document is really that the state needs to start acting like a good parent.”

The green paper proposes the introduction of independent practices of social workers, similar in style to GP practices.

Small, autonomous groups, which could be run by the voluntary or private sectors, would be contracted to local authorities with the aim of freeing up more social work time to work with looked-after children.

The paper also suggests that young people should be given a veto over leaving care before they turn 18, and proposes pilots allowing them to remain in foster care until 21.

And it proposes a new training qualification and salary structure for foster carers.

Other recommendations include:

– testing the model of intensive whole family therapy to keep families together

– a dedicated budget for social workers to spend on the education of looked-after children

– piloting individual budgets to be held by lead professionals

– establishing a ‘virtual head teacher’ for looked-after children in an area

– regular Ofsted inspections of how schools are meeting their responsibilities towards children in care.

The government will consider responses to the document before deciding on a way forward and considering potential funding requirements.

Consultation runs until 15 January 2007.

Reaction to the green paper.

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