So, according to the House of Commons’ education select committee, it seems the care pendulum should be swinging back towards more children being placed in care. It’s interesting and maybe a little ironic, that this has hit the news at the same time as the renewed investigations into abuse in children’s homes in North Wales.
As a concept, it’s easy. Neglectful/abusive parents equal intervention equal removal at a time when a child has or is likely to suffer significant harm. The above committee now seems to be saying that too often vulnerable children are left with parents who are given too many opportunities to change.
The care population is on the rise. Children who are in care are known to struggle to meet their potential and the reasons for this are obvious. Disrupted and often dysfunctional family lives, separation from family and often siblings once in care, messy education due to school changes, changes in key social care workers, the list goes on.
Having been a lawyer for many years representing children in care, for many, living in the care system is not an easy option. Whilst I am not advocating that any young person should ever be left in a family situation where he/she will suffer harm, there does need to be balance in terms of what he/she will get from a life in care.
And this is the bit that’s important as far as I’m concerned. If more children are to be removed, they should be placed in a care system that is properly funded which has the resources to actually improve their lives. This is particularly so for teenagers moving into the system who may have more multi-faceted problems.
Over the last few years many services for vulnerable young people (including my own legal freephone advice line for 13-19 year olds) have discontinued due to funding problems. Whilst I am glad that, at last, there is recognition that there is insufficient support of older children and those leaving care, it is difficult to see how in principle anything will change against a backdrop of vital services, such as advocacy services, being forced to shut due to a lack of funding resulting from the public spending cuts. Unless there is some decent funding, the Committee’s report and proposals, whether they are right or wrong, are a nonsense.
Liz Fisher Frank
Liz Fisher-Frank is a solicitor, writer and children’s rights campaigner. She set up and ran the Lawyers for Young People project. Liz has considerable experience in working with young people in the care system - most recently as head of the legal unit at the Children’s Society - and that experience has formed the basis of her efforts to increase awareness of the problems some children do face. Liz writes about the barriers children and young people face in accessing the law. She also writes fiction for young adults.