20 April 2009
RADICAL OVERHAUL OF CARE SYSTEM MUST PUT CHILDREN’S HAPPINESS AT ITS HEART, SAY MPS
The Government must be more willing to take on the role of a ‘pushy parent’ for children in care and to put the experience of the child at the heart of policy, says a report by the Children, Schools and Families Committee, published today.
The report warns that the state fails as a parent because the Government is too timid in demanding that health services and the criminal justice and asylum systems give special consideration to looked-after children. Children in and formerly in care are not adequately protected from the risks of offending, sexual exploitation or homelessness, and there are not enough of the therapeutic services that many of them need.
MPs say that luck plays too big a part in determining a child’s experience because of inconsistencies in the quality of care. Children’s satisfaction with their lives in care should be at the heart of everything including quality assessment and inspection.
The report also says that social workers and foster carers need to have the right backing to respond to children’s needs in a more ‘parent-like’ way. These parts of the workforce have the greatest influence over a child’s day-to-day happiness, but are often undervalued and overburdened.
The Committee is concerned that the care system's poor reputation may contribute to reluctance to take children into care when necessary. Reform of the system must go hand in hand with more effective early intervention to reduce the potential for misery in children’s lives. A focus of resources in child protection should not happen at the expense of services to bring about positive change in families.
The Chairman of the Committee, Barry Sheerman MP, said:
“It is imperative that the Government, through its Care Matters reform programme, tackles the perception that entering the care system is catastrophic for a child’s future prospects. It must be seen as a positive experience, but this will only happen if the state can better replicate the warm, secure care of good parents for every child in the system.”