Every child taken into care and every young person who leaves it should expect the system to provide the very best care alongside the support and love they need to thrive. Sadly for too many children and young people there is not enough ‘care’ in the system and not enough is being done to give them the best possible start in life.
That’s why Become has today published A system that cares, a manifesto setting out what we and the young people we work with think is needed to make things better for care-experienced children and young people.
In light of the upcoming general election, we’re calling on the political party leaders to adopt our asks in full and to make a public commitment to care-experienced young people within their manifestos.
Ultimately we want real reform in order to create a care system which provides all children and young people with the support, stability and love they need to recover from trauma and lead happy and healthy lives. We know that at its best the system achieves this. Unfortunately, it does not achieve this for all or even most of the children in the system. And that is just not good enough.
This is urgent. The number of children in care continues to rise. 88 children enter care every day. At the same time children’s services face a funding gap of over £3 billion by 2025.
The age of children coming into care and the reasons why they are entering care has changed in recent years. Children are now more likely to enter care as teenagers having experienced exploitation or violence. The system has failed to adapt to these changes.
There aren’t enough good foster carers or children’s homes where they’re needed. Too many young people are forced to live apart from brothers and sisters and away from their home area.
Decisions on where a child lives are too frequently driven by financial pressures and what is available rather than by what is in a child’s best interests and by what they want to happen. Too little attention is paid to stability, to developing the critical long-term relationships which last into adulthood.
Young people continue to face a sudden and significant drop in support at age 18 and can find themselves forced into adulthood well before they’re ready.
This must change. We need a well-funded care system focused on children’s individual needs, supported by highly-trained and caring professionals. We need a system which puts stability and loving relationships at its heart, ends uncertainty for those leaving care, invests in mental health support, and listens closely to care-experienced children and adults.
Delivering this must be at the top of any future agenda for government. The next government must take seriously its role as corporate parent and provide the same support and opportunities as any parent would want for their own children.
There can be few times in living memory when an election sets to be so overwhelmingly dominated by one issue. That simply can’t be at the expense of care-experienced children and young people.