Young children not routinely told why they are in care, survey finds

Almost half of four- to seven-year-olds in care had not had the reason they were in care fully explained to them, while a third of eight- to 11-year-olds also hadn't

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Photo: Gary Brigden

Almost half of four- to seven-year-olds in care have not had the reason for them being there fully explained to them, a survey of more than 2,600 children has found.

The survey, carried out by Coram Voice and the University of Bristol and published as part of the Our Lives, Our Care research series, found a third of eight- to 11-year-olds likewise felt they hadn’t had the reason they were in care explained to them. Among 11-18 year olds meanwhile, 18% hadn’t.

“I would like to know more about why I am in care and why I am not living with my mum,” one child was quoted as saying by the survey.

Throughout the study, respondents were broken down into school ages, four to seven (key stage 1), eight to 11 (key stage 2) and 11-18 (secondary school).

The report said one in five of four- to seven-year-olds didn’t know who their social worker was, but that these younger children were still the most likely group to trust social workers.

More than a quarter (27%) of 11- to 18-year-olds had had three or more social workers “in the past year”. Trust in social workers was nonetheless high – 88% or above – among all children surveyed, researchers found.

Responding to the findings, Brigid Robinson, managing director at Coram Voice, said it was “concerning” so many children interviewed “lack a stable relationship with their social worker”.

‘Lives are improving’

Professor Julie Selwyn CBE, director of the University of Bristol’s Hadley Centre for adoption and foster care studies, said: “While there is still much more local authorities can do to improve services, it is important to recognise that most looked-after children and young people felt that their lives were improving, felt satisfied and were positive about their futures.”

Selwyn referenced wellbeing scores from the survey which, while identifying groups of vulnerable young people who needed additional support, represented a positive picture for young people in care.

Of 11- to 18-year-olds, 15% had low wellbeing, while 34% reported “very high” life satisfaction scores, compared with 36% of 11- to 17-year-olds in the general child population in England.

All in all, more than four in five (82%) of children and young people who participated said they felt life was getting better – though 59% of those in the two older age groups said they often worried about their feelings and behaviour.

Selwyn said that young people with levels of low wellbeing need to be identified and additional support provided to ensure their self-esteem improves and positive relationships can be built with adults.

“Those with low wellbeing were disconnected – lacked friends, had no trusted adult in their lives and felt unsettled and unhappy,” she said.

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