Green paper promises an end to instability for lives of children in care

The government has unveiled wide-ranging plans to provide “stability, stability, stability” for looked-after children in England.

Care Matters, its long-awaited green paper on children in care, proposes testing GP-style social work practices, a tiered qualification and payment framework for foster carers, and a veto for young people over leaving care before they turn 18.

It also suggests a foundation degree in working with looked-after children, pilots of individual budgets for lead professionals, and a dedicated budget for social workers to spend on improving the educational attainment of children in care.

The proposals have not been costed and the government says it will not do this until it has considered responses and drawn up more detailed proposals.

It will also set up working groups to look in detail at the future of the care population, the proposed social work practices, placement reform, and best practice in schools.

Launching the document, education secretary Alan Johnson insisted the government was investing “lots of money” in services for lookedafter children “but it’s the system that’s the problem”.

He added: “We are going to have to sort that out but that’s the whole point of having this as a green paper.

If there’s a need for more money then we will argue for more money.” The paper has been broadly welcomed by local authority leaders and campaign groups.

British Association of Social Workers chair Ray Jones said: “This has got to be good news because we are seeing a government say this is an issue that needs to be tackled and we want to tackle it.” But he warned that some of the plans would need
significant resources.

British Association for Adoption and Fostering chief executive David Holmes said the green paper was a “serious document, full of proposals”. He said it would be important to prioritise them for action during the consultation period.

John Freeman, vice-president of the Confederation of Children’s Services Managers, said the thrust of the paper was “exactly right” but “turning the rhetoric into results will be a challenge”.

Other key proposals:
● Test a model of “intensive whole-family therapy” to keep families together.
● Ask Ofsted to carry out regular inspections of how each council is meeting the educational needs of looked-after children.
● Create “virtual head teachers” to drive up school performance in relation to children in care.
● All councils to develop a pledge for children in care, setting out what they can expect to receive.
● Pilot new regional commissioning units.
● Offer free entitlement to school transport for children in care to allow them to remain in the same school after a placement change.
● Provide a named health professional for every child in care.

Consultation closes on 15 January.

What do you think of the plans? Have your say at on the Community Care Discussion Forum

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