Looked-after Children - Children, Schools and Families Committee Contents


6  Extending the scope and rigour of corporate parenting

145. The concept of "corporate parenting" was introduced with the launch of the Quality Protects programme in 1998. The principle is that the local authority is the corporate parent of children in care, and thus has a legal and moral duty to provide the kind of support that any good parents would provide for their own children. This includes enhancing children's quality of life as well as simply keeping them safe.[381]

146. Although improvements in corporate parenting must be led by each local authority's Director of Children's Services and Lead Member for Children's Services, guidance makes it clear that looked-after children are not the sole responsibility of a local authority's children's services function.[382] Barnardo's expressed a concern that the measures proposed in Care Matters to strengthen the role of the corporate parent focus mainly on children's services, and fail to address the responsibility of other local services for children in care. They proposed that all the relevant services—which include health, housing and police—should be formally required to promote the wellbeing of children in and leaving care.[383] Warwickshire County Council's Director of Children's Services, Marion Davis, told us that multi-agency corporate parenting training for all Children's Trust partners was crucial to enacting the council's belief that "looked-after children should be everybody's business".[384]

147. The joint chief inspectors[385] noted in their 2008 report on arrangements to safeguard children that the corporate parenting role was not yet fully understood by all council officers or elected members.[386] District councils in particular may not yet grasp the full implications of corporate parenthood, although they are responsible for leisure and housing services, both of which are vital to improving the experience of children in and leaving care.[387]

148. Promoting the wellbeing, achievement and happiness of looked-after children and care leavers is a responsibility that must be shared and understood by all local services. Children's Trusts are in a position to lead this process.[388] We are concerned that the scope of corporate parenthood as usually understood leaves bodies other than schools and children's services too much leeway in the priority they give to looked-after children. If corporate parenting is to emulate family life, it must not be compartmentalised, nor truncated at age 18. We recommend that all Children's Trusts take responsibility for multi-agency corporate parenting training, to include managers within adult health and social care services, and officers and members of district councils where relevant.

Health and wellbeing of children in care

149. The physical and mental health of looked-after children is known to be significantly poorer than that of the general child population.[389] A survey by Meltzer and others (2003) showed that 45% of looked-after children aged 5 to 17 were assessed as having a mental disorder compared to 10% of the general child population. Two-thirds of all children in care were reported by their carers as having at least one physical complaint.[390] Looked-after young people experience a significantly higher rate of teenage conception and teenage motherhood when compared to the non-care population; they may be more vulnerable to involvement in risky sexual activity, or exploitative and abusive relationships. Young people in care are also thought to be four times more likely than their peers to smoke, use alcohol and misuse drugs.[391]

150. Several factors contribute to the markedly poor health of children and young people in care. Around two-thirds of children who come into care do so because of abuse and neglect, and these experiences can have a long-term impact on their health and development, physically and mentally.[392] Health inequalities arising from poverty have a disproportionate impact on children in care. It is known that children in care are much more likely than the general population to have missed immunisations and the general development checks that are designed to identify health problems at an early stage. Their health records are more likely to be incomplete and difficult to trace.[393] Separation from family can itself cause emotional trauma, vulnerability, and impaired ability to form trusting relationships with adults—factors which may then be compounded by placement breakdowns and frequent moves while in care.[394]

HEALTH BODIES AS STRATEGIC PARTNERS IN CORPORATE PARENTING

151. The Government announced its intention in the Care Matters White Paper to re-issue the guidance Promoting the Health of Looked After Children (Department of Health 2002) on a statutory footing for both local authorities and healthcare bodies. Previously this guidance, which addresses health assessment, planning, health promotion and the roles of designated looked-after children's doctors and nurses, held statutory status only for local authorities.[395] The role of PCT Chief Executives in ensuring that the health of children in care is an identified local priority will be included in the revised guidance, and the Government stated it will "explore how the portfolio of the senior lead for children and young people in PCTs can be developed to address further the needs of vulnerable groups of children—including children in care."[396]

152. The Local Government Association told us that the Government's proposals to sharpen health partners' focus on looked-after children in care are inadequate and lacking ambition.[397] The National Children's Bureau (NCB) and the Care Matters Partnership welcomed the Government's intention to publish statutory guidance, but the latter cautioned that only a primary statutory duty to assess needs and provide services would lend sufficient priority to looked-after children in health services.[398] Dr Rita Harris of the Care Matters Partnership told us that good will is at present the main basis of co-operation between health bodies and local authorities; the NSPCC called for such co-operation to be made a statutory duty.[399] Helen Chambers, NCB's Principal Officer, Wellbeing, commented that responsibility for children in care's health falls between health services and children's services, because "The health of looked-after children is everybody's business, but actually it is nobody's business."[400]

153. Sue Dunstall, Policy Adviser for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), told us that, while there are often excellent networks at practitioner level, the delivery of health services for children in care is hampered by "the rather less excellent partnerships at commissioning level." Champions are needed at senior strategic levels, among those "who actually hold the money streams and can commit to services".[401] The NCB argued that PCTs should be required to identify a named commissioner for looked-after children, to oversee and coordinate how the PCT will meet the health needs of looked-after children in its area.[402]

154. We asked Baroness Morgan of Drefelin, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children, Young People and Families, what levers are available to ensure that sufficient priority is given to children in care in the NHS. She told us:

    For the first time, there will be statutory guidance on the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment that states that the specific needs of vulnerable groups such as looked-after children should be taken into account. […] We are putting a specific duty [on PCTs] to look in detail at the health needs of vulnerable groups such as looked-after children.[403]

Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNAs) are carried out by councils and PCTs to inform commissioning of services. One of their purposes is to provide a basis for the selection of targets for Local Area Agreements (LAAs).[404] The Care Matters White Paper stated that "one of the factors likely to emerge in the JSNA will be the mental health of children and young people in care" and that the Local Area Agreement "provides a major opportunity for local authorities and their partners to increase the focus on CAMHS services and to promote the mental health of children in care more broadly."[405] However, only five out of a possible 150 local authorities have chosen National Indicator 58 (NI58), on the emotional and behavioural health of children in care, for their first Local Area Agreement.[406]

155. The National Service Framework (NSF) for Children, Young People and Maternity Services (DoH 2004), the NHS Operating Framework 2008-09 and Public Service Agreement 12 all contain standards and statements of relevance to looked-after children. However, the lack of specific references to or priority for children in care is notable; often they are referred to as one of a number of groups under the rubric of "children in special circumstances".[407] The NSPCC expressed the belief that lack of co-operation at strategic level between health and other services, and lack of recognition in Local Area Agreements, is at least partly due to the performance framework containing too few incentives for NHS bodies to prioritise the needs of children in care.[408] Dr Catherine M. Hill, Chair of BAAF's Health Group Advisory Committee, told us:

    At the moment, accountability [for performance indicators relating to health of looked-after children] is fairly firmly placed with the local authority. While there are clearly duties of co-operation between the partners, and some good examples of good partnership working, the indicators by which the PCTs are currently monitored are not specific. They must be specific for looked-after children because there is a food chain in the PCT, and children are quite a long way down that food chain in my experience. Vulnerable children are a wee bit further down and looked-after children are embedded even further down. Unless you bring them up the food chain in the performance monitoring framework, they will remain lost and embedded among the various social inequality local area agreement targets and so on.[409]

Dr Hill emphasised that "performance indicators help to dictate and support where resources go in the health service".[410]

156. We note that the child health strategy Healthy lives, brighter futures, published after we had completed our formal evidence-gathering, appears to reinforce the message that it is local authorities who are primarily accountable for analysing need and commissioning health services for looked-after children.[411] We are persuaded that the task of local authorities in promoting the health and wellbeing of children in their care would be made easier if this responsibility was explicitly shared. Looked-after children must have a higher profile in NHS performance frameworks. Children in care need 'champions' in senior strategic positions in the health service, and corporate parenting training should be mandatory for relevant senior NHS officers and board members with relevant responsibilities.

VARIATION IN HEALTH SERVICES FOR LOOKED-AFTER CHILDREN

157. Witnesses to the inquiry drew attention to the variation in the structure, conduct and availability of health services for looked-after children around the country. Since the launch of Quality Protects and the 2002 Department of Health guidance on Promoting the Health of Looked-after Children, many local health teams dedicated to working with looked-after children have developed. There is, however, inequity across areas; Dr Catherine M. Hill told us that "from one PCT to the next, there may be an enormous difference in the provision, not only in terms of man and woman hours but in terms of diversity—that is, whether a health team is a lone nurse or whether it is a group of nurses, doctors, clinical psychologists etc."[412] Dr Rita Harris of the Care Matters Partnership and Helen Chambers of the National Children's Bureau agreed that the system is characterised by patchiness of provision.[413]

158. When a child enters the care system, they should receive a health assessment by a registered medical practitioner within 14 days. This provides the basis for a health plan which is then reviewed at least annually. We heard that there are many different models of how health assessments are done, and a great variation in the expertise of those undertaking them; some are so "light-touch" that they happen over the telephone, and the outcomes are inconsistent.[414] Delivery of the services that are needed to fulfil health plans can be patchy, particularly for children placed out of their home area who may find that the services they need are not available where they are placed.[415]

159. Promoting the Health of Looked-after Children (2002) set out the roles of the designated doctor and nurse for children in care, and these posts have been adopted fairly widely. Witnesses were enthusiastic about these roles; Helen Chambers told us that looked-after children's nurses were some of the "greatest champions" for children in care at practitioner level.[416] Young people say that consistent support from a specialist doctor or nurse is very valuable in an otherwise unstable life.[417] However, there are worries that the long-term future of these roles will be jeopardised by insecure funding, and that their effectiveness may be compromised if their particular remit is diluted by greater involvement in child protection work.[418]

SPECIFYING SERVICES AND STRUCTURES

160. Care Matters has introduced a range of imaginative and well-received initiatives to ensure that looked-after children are well-supported in their education, some of which have been legislated for in the Children and Young Persons Act 2008. In every local authority, children in care will benefit from the oversight of "virtual school heads",[419] statutory designated teachers, priority in school admissions and insistence that placement moves must not disrupt education. This is a stark contrast with health services, where designated health professionals have not been mentioned in legislation, access to services is patchy and difficult to secure, and children not in stable long-term placements may find themselves ruled out of receiving mental health services altogether (for reasons discussed below). Three indicators measuring the educational success of looked-after children have been included in the set of mandatory Local Area Agreement targets, while as we have seen, the one indicator on looked-after children's emotional health has no such protection. This is particularly curious because, as Dr Rita Harris pointed out, "What is the point of going to school if children are totally distracted and unable to concentrate or learn anything because of their emotional turmoil?"[420] The lack of provision in the Children and Young Persons Act relating to health and wellbeing was a concern for the Association of Directors of Children's Services.[421] The NSPCC agreed that "the availability of appropriate services for children in care must be supported by legislative change—a sustainable lever to drive reform."[422]

161. By comparison with its policies for the education of children in care—virtual school heads, designated teachers, priority in admissions and mandatory performance indicators—the Government has seemed timid in specifying what looked-after children should be able to expect from health services. The Government should seek to specify a range of good practice, in particular the roles of designated doctors and nurses, as a matter of urgency.

MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES FOR LOOKED-AFTER CHILDREN

162. The Care Matters White Paper states that the Government "will use statutory guidance to ensure CAMHS [Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services] provide targeted and dedicated provision that appropriately prioritises children in care."[423] The White Paper points to the role of the Director of Children's Services in ensuring that local joint commissioning arrangements are able to secure adequate CAMHS for children in care.[424]

163. There is, said the NSPCC, a "startling discrepancy between assessed need and service provision" for mental health. It is estimated that up to 17,000 children in care who have mental or emotional health needs received no support from CAMHS in 2006-07, leaving them reliant on patchy voluntary sector provision.[425] There appear to be particularly severe problems in securing therapeutic support for children who have experienced abuse or neglect.[426] The Association of Child Psychotherapists drew attention to the variable availability of services around the country; it reported that 35 out of 50 PCTs in the north of England do not commission child and adolescent psychotherapy.[427] The Care Matters Partnership estimated that 90% of children who have experienced sexual abuse receive "no substantial support", and described the consequences: "Untreated children who suffer from abuse […] can be at increased risk of adult depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, relationship difficulties, participation in harmful activities, negative self-image and attitudes towards other people."[428]

164. A number of factors were suggested to explain this mismatch of needs and services. Assuming that a child's need is identified through the health assessment or otherwise—not a foregone conclusion[429]—they will still face very high thresholds for referral to overstretched mental health services, and long waiting lists.[430] Lack of time and resources forces CAMHS to be essentially reactive, especially to overt behavioural problems such as conduct disorders at the expense of less apparent difficulties and of long-term remedial work.[431] Many CAMH services do not provide treatment at all for children in short-term placements or those deemed not stable, despite the fact that behavioural or emotional problems may prevent a child achieving stability.[432] Children going through court proceedings or awaiting adoption or reunification with their family may be similarly disadvantaged.[433] Access to CAMHS is often difficult for looked-after children, especially those placed outside their home authority.[434]

165. Maxine Wrigley, Chief Executive of A National Voice, told us

    Given that young people in care are statistically five times more likely to have a mental health need, it is crazy that some of them are on a waiting list of up to 12 months to see a counsellor, therapist or someone who can offer support. These young people need a fast track.[435]

Dr Rita Harris reasoned that "in the same way that looked-after children are given priority for school admission, they should be given priority for the health services that they need", but she pointed out that this would require sufficient funding to ensure that the services were actually available.[436] Helen Chambers concurred: "In theory, prioritising looked-after children within CAMHS would be great", but "I was wondering whether we have sufficient CAMHS staff to meet the needs of looked-after children if they were prioritised".[437]

166. Witnesses suggested that specialist teams and practitioners can improve the service children in care receive from mental health services, providing, for example, fast-response assessment, consultation to carers and social workers, placement support and invaluable advocacy as well as treatment.[438] Dr Rita Harris told us that it is much more effective to have dedicated CAMH services for looked-after children rather than "to expect them to fall into the general melee of a CAMHS referral".[439] She cautioned, however, that specialist teams "are tricky to set up and take a huge amount of time and finance."[440] The NSPCC warned that "there is no certainty that targeted [CAMHS] teams, many of which were developed as pilots, or for limited periods subject to continued commissioning, will be sustained."[441]

167. Children and young people in care should have guaranteed access to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, and resources must be provided to ensure that this is achievable. Urgent action must be taken to address the shortage of therapeutic services for children in care. We recommend that the Government should assess how specialist mental health teams for children in care can be put in place and sustained in all areas.

A HOLISTIC UNDERSTANDING OF WELLBEING

168. The Care Matters White Paper recognises that "the task of improving health should be approached holistically—it is not the concern of the NHS alone. Factors such as secure attachment, friendships and engagement in positive leisure activities also promote health and wider wellbeing".[442] This approach provides a welcome basis for involving all services in improving wellbeing for children in care and ensuring they have opportunities to enjoy life. The National Children's Bureau's Healthy Care Programme is a multi-agency framework for partnership working in this area.[443] There are over 90 local Healthy Care Partnerships. Dr Catherine M. Hill told us that the Healthy Care Programme "has given people a model in the field and in practice that has lifted us from statutory must-dos and the Promoting Health suggestions to saying, 'Here is how you can do it and start to achieve this.'"[444] The Programme was funded originally by the Department of Health, and then by the DfES from 2004. National funding has been discontinued and it is now dependent on regional support; the NCB believes that the Programme will consequently lose the breadth of its coverage, especially in areas which most need the external stimulus to focus on the health of looked-after children.[445]

169. The Government's support for a holistic view of the wellbeing of children in care is very welcome, but it sits oddly with the withdrawal of national funding for the Healthy Care Programme, which appears to embody this principle. We recommend that the Government monitor the impact of the end of national funding for Healthy Care Partnerships on local collaborative working and the priority that looked-after children are given in services.

Leaving care

Age of leaving care

170. In the year to 31 March 2008, of the young people who left care aged 16 or over, 39% were aged 16 or 17, and 61% left on their 18th birthday.[446] These figures probably underestimate the numbers leaving before 18.[447] It is well known that the average age of leaving home for most young people in the UK is now 24.[448] It is perverse—and a matter of great concern to many of those who gave us evidence—that we expect some of the most vulnerable and damaged young people to cope with life on their own at a much earlier age that the average young person.[449] Professor Mike Stein told us that, in the long run, the young people who have the worst outcomes tend to be those who leave care at 16 and have little support to help them cope.[450] Martin Narey, Chief Executive of Barnardo's, commented:

    The proportion of young people […] who are on their own aged 16 and 17—precisely the time when most children of that age still enjoy huge financial and emotional support from their parents—is astonishing. We should not scratch our heads and wonder why so many of them are in prison; where else are so many of them going to go? It is astonishing that some of them survive the process.[451]

Professor Ian Sinclair described the process of leaving care as "the Achilles heel" of the care system;[452] it has the potential to undo whatever good has been done by the system up to that point.

171. Although rare, and not recorded in official statistics, it is possible for young people to stay in care placements past their 18th birthday. Placements in these circumstances are not at present subject to regulation, and carers are not eligible for allowances, so they depend largely on the good will of foster carers.[453] In the past such arrangements have typically been discouraged by local authorities under pressure to free up placements for young children.[454] Residential homes, meanwhile, are not usually set up to cater for post-18 placements, and there is widespread expectation on young people to start thinking about their future independence from age 14 or 15.[455] Maxine Wrigley, Chief Executive of A National Voice, told us about the effect that looming independence can have on how young people think not only about their future but about their time in care:

    There is an element of, 'you are going to be kicked out of the care system at 16 anyway', so if you are 14 and it is not that much longer to go then you may as well go and hang about on the streets for a bit. That seems to be the attitude that I hear from young people. If they felt that there was going to be a corporate parent there into their early 20s, they may feel that someone wants them more and that there is some support. I worry that young people, the ones we come across at the sharp end, feel that there is a cut-off, a cliff, where the care system may just end, and that is the end of that. That can be a very distressing concept.[456]

One young person put it to us that, "at 18, you're basically thrown out".[457]

172. Several witnesses pointed out to us that some young people in care—especially in residential placements—are in fact eager to leave as soon as possible, and, even given the opportunity to stay, this would always be the case.[458] This may be the result of an unhappy time in care.[459] The problem is that in many cases, no-one will try to persuade them to stay.[460] There are also young people who end up leaving care prematurely because their placements break down and it seems too late to attempt to settle in another one.[461] Martin Hazlehurst, Service Manager of the National Leaving Care Advisory Service (NLCAS), told us that local authorities differ in the priority they place on preventing young people leaving care at 16: "In some local authorities that would be unusual as there is a culture—and a clear direction from the top—that young people will not leave until they are 18. In other local authorities, [leaving care at 16] is the norm and tolerated".[462] Steve Goodman, Deputy Director of Children and Young People's Services at Hackney Council, agreed that "the chief obstacle is culture". He reported that Hackney has been prompted to review its stance on the age of leaving care by the emphasis placed on it by Care Matters.[463]

173. Care Matters recognised the need for reform in transitions to adulthood, stating that "any good parent will continue to offer love and support to their children well beyond 18, giving them the greatest head start in life that they can. The Government expects no less for young people in care".[464] The Minister, Baroness Morgan, told us:

    We need to be absolutely clear that the presumption should be that young people aged 16 or 17 should stay in the care system, in a residential placement or in foster care, until they are 18, unless there is a special and particular reason for them not to do so.[465]

We welcome the Government's assertion that it should become exceptional for a young person to leave care before they turn 18, and hope that it will precipitate a culture change in local authorities. We recommend, however, that the Government show more ambition by making a commitment to narrowing the gap between the average age of leaving care and the age of independence for other young people. Remaining in care in some form until at least age 21 should become routine.

174. The White Paper introduced two pilot projects to address the issue of too many young people leaving care before they are ready:

  • 'Right2BCared4' effectively provides for a veto for young people over decisions to move them out of care. The Children and Young Persons Act 2008 requires that a statutory review take place before a young person is moved from a care placement to independent living.[466] Any young person for whom independence has been proposed will be supported by an independent person, nominated by them, throughout the review process.
  • 'Staying Put: 18+ Family Placement' aims to enable young people to stay in foster placements up to the age of 21 if they wish.

175. These initiatives have generally been welcomed—indeed the most common criticism we have heard is that the need for these provisions is so well-known that a pilot phase is unnecessary.[467] The Government's response has been that post-18 placements may have complex legal and financial implications that need to be clarified through the pilots before any national roll-out.[468] The Minister told us that action will be taken in the next spending review period to ensure that any care leaver "can have a reasonable expectation" that they can stay in a family placement after age 18.[469] We welcome the Right2BCared4 and Staying Put pilots, and urge the Government to make their benefits available to all young people in care—including those in residential placements—at the earliest possible opportunity.

176. The Fostering Network, however, told us they were disappointed with the lack of ambition in the Government's proposals.[470] It is not clear whether or how residential care will be affected; the Government has so far committed only to assessing whether there is demand for post-18 placements from young people in residential care, despite what we know about the greater vulnerability of this section of the care population.[471] As already noted, a much greater supply of foster placements and a much greater investment in fostering support will be necessary to make the option of "staying put" universally available.[472] The pilots will need to explore the type of support that will be needed by young people and their carers to overcome the placement breakdowns that so often hasten the end of a child's time in care.[473] The success of statutory reviews as a mechanism for preventing premature independence will depend—as with all looked-after children reviews—on the effectiveness of Independent Reviewing Officers and the individuals supporting the young person through the process.[474]

177. The success of efforts to ensure that young people stay in care for longer will depend on factors the Government has not yet fully addressed, such as supply of foster placements, support to prevent placement breakdowns, and the effectiveness of Independent Reviewing Officers and review processes. Local authorities must be given all necessary assistance to achieve these changes.

178. It is not only the age of leaving "home" which makes the transition to independence different for young people who have been in care. Martin Hazlehurst of the National Leaving Care Advisory Service told us that

    […]the process of moving from care to adulthood is very linear. Most young people will leave home and come back, leave home and come back. It is very unusual for a young person in care to be able to move backwards and forwards, and to move back to a care placement.[475]

Maxine Wrigley described the sort of support that most young people take for granted, but is not often available for care-leavers: "I have friends in their 30s who know that they can go back any time; they can still take their washing back or if they are skint they can borrow £100."[476] Eighty-eight per cent of young people in care surveyed by Rainer in 2006 thought that care leavers should have the option of returning to supported accommodation if a move to independent living is not successful at first.[477] The process of learning about adult life needs to be gradual, flexible and experimental, with a "safety-net" attached, and should recognise that young people progress and mature at different rates.[478] Flexibility is also needed in the way preparation for leaving care is delivered, as many young people automatically become the responsibility of specialist leaving care teams at age 16, even if they have good relationships with their existing social worker.[479] The Right2BCared4 and Staying Put pilots should be used to explore how more flexibility can be built into the process of leaving care, so that young people who find they are not yet ready for independence are able, and encouraged, to revert to a higher level of support.

179. Children in and leaving care are often vulnerable to sexual exploitation, partly because of the young age at which they are expected to become independent.[480] Care leavers may find themselves accommodated in areas where sexual exploitation is known to take place; Roger Morgan told us of young people who reported to him that they had been placed in a hostel that was locally well-known for prostitution, and there is evidence of organised, targeted exploitation of girls in residential homes and hostels.[481] Premature independence compounds the legacy of pre-care experiences such as abusive relationships, and the care system's failure to compensate for them, in contributing to young people's vulnerability. Going missing from home or care is a key early indicator of risk of sexual exploitation, and significantly increases young people's exposure to potentially risky situations.[482] Other risk factors or related issues, including drug and alcohol abuse, mental health problems, and non-attendance at school, are also more prevalent among the looked-after population. We are particularly concerned that where young people lack stability in their care placements, or lack the knowledge that a trusted adult has a personal interest in their life and future, they will be more likely to put themselves at risk and less likely to disclose problems where they occur. Many adults who are involved in prostitution report that they spent time in care, and many became involved in sexual exploitation when they were children or young teenagers.[483] The Government issued draft guidance on Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation for consultation in July 2008. The guidance emphasised the importance of Local Safeguarding Children's Boards developing a protocol and leading multi-agency work including the health services, social care, housing, schools and the police.[484] The vulnerability of care leavers to sexual exploitation is a matter of great concern to us. We urge the Government to analyse any ways in which features of the care system itself expose young people to greater danger, and take urgent steps to protect care leavers from this sort of exploitation.

LEAVING CARE PREPARATION AND SERVICES

180. The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 defined "care leavers" as young people aged 16 to 21 who are or were in care for a total of at least 13 weeks since reaching the age of 14. The Act conferred on local authorities duties to provide various forms of support to care leavers where previously they only had discretion to do so. Two of the most important forms of support are "pathway plans", which replace care plans for young people turning 16 and should map out the journey to independence, and the provision of a Personal Adviser for each young person leaving care, to co-ordinate a package of support and assistance for them. The Act imposed a duty on local authorities to keep in touch with care leavers until they are at least 21, and to assess and meet the their needs up to that age. Ring-fenced funds were made available for implementation that improved the services available in many areas. The Act was described by Pam Hibbert of Barnardo's as "a brilliant piece of legislation" that has improved support for care leavers, but which has left still more room for improvement.[485]

181. Ofsted told us that arrangements for preparing and helping young people to leave care have improved, but we heard from witnesses that the support available to care leavers still varies considerably in its quality and content.[486] Around 14% of eligible young people are not provided with a pathway plan.[487] A peer research project in 2006 found that 38% of the young people surveyed felt they were simply left to "get on with it" without any preparation or support when the time came to live independently.[488] The Children's Rights Director, Dr Roger Morgan, reported that

    […]there is no middle ground. Children either tell us that they have had a good experience because they had a good leaving-care worker, or that the experience was very poor, because they did not have a good leaving-care worker or they had none at all and they were not given the information that they needed.[489]

John Hill, National Manager of the What Makes The Difference? Project, also reported that many local authorities still do not provide Personal Advisers, or if they do, they may provide two advisers for as many as 80 care leavers.[490] We heard some dissatisfaction with the content of leaving care preparation services, which typically cover practical issues such as cooking and budgeting, but put less effort into preparing young people emotionally for the isolation they may face when living independently.[491]

182. Lack of resources may be one reason for the variability of services.[492] Martin Hazlehurst argued that the low profile of leaving care services in regulation and inspection allows some local authorities to accord them a lower priority; there are no statutory standards for leaving care services, and the only inspection has been in the much broader context of Joint Area Reviews. He proposed that the DCSF should take a stronger line on identifying underperformance and "should ensure that there are sanctions to go along with that, but that does not happen much".[493]

183. There is also evidence of large differences in the leaving care grants and other financial support available to care leavers; leaving care grants in 2005 varied from £400 in some local authorities to as much as £2,000 in others.[494] Professor Mike Stein told us that the financial and personal support given to care leavers in higher education varies without obvious reference to the needs or circumstances of the young people involved, a situation that "can generate a sense of injustice".[495] For all young people in care who go on to higher education, the Children and Young Persons Act 2008 introduced a minimum grant (set at £2,000).[496] The Government's only proposal in Care Matters to address the more general inequity in financial support to care leavers is to invest £100 per year in the Child Trust Fund of every child who spends the year in care, starting in 2008.[497] Barnardo's welcomed this plan but told us that, in view of the small proportion of the current care population who will benefit, there should be a minimum level of leaving care grant for every young person.[498] We asked other witnesses whether there should be more standardisation in these grants across the country. While cost of living variations around the country and differences in the needs of young people make complete standardisation undesirable, John Hill and Martin Hazelhurst agreed that local authorities should be required to be more open about the financial assistance they offer and the criteria on which decisions are made, perhaps through the Pledge.[499]

184. We recommend that national standards for leaving care services should be developed with local authorities so that these services can be objectively assessed. The standards should include a greater degree of consistency and transparency in the financial support available to care leavers and the criteria on which it is determined. Each authority should include details of what it will provide in its Pledge.

185. John Hill told us that most care leavers with disabilities receive no personal adviser service and no pathway planning process, and that "they get one of the rawest deals among the care-leaving population." Disabled care-leavers are often passed over to adult services, missing out on the elements of leaving care services which are about promoting independence; they become the responsibility of a care manager who will commission services for them but whose role is far removed from that of a Personal Adviser or a social worker.[500] The Care Matters White Paper acknowledged the additional complexity of the needs of disabled young people leaving care, but did not propose any specific measures to take this into account. Access to a Personal Adviser after age 21 is mentioned, but the legislation provides for this benefit only if a young person is engaged in or planning education or training. The White Paper says that "for those young people whose disability results in needs sufficient to warrant access to adult community care services we do not anticipate replacing that support with PA [Personal Adviser] support".[501] We are concerned that the benefits of specific support to enable young people with disabilities to move on from care, as distinct from the care services related to their disability, have not been recognised in the Care Matters programme. Equal access to all features of effective leaving care support must be guaranteed to care leavers with disabilities.

186. John Hill told us that care leavers' vulnerability means that "you are going to have to hang on in there—if anything, in an ideal world, for much longer than you would ordinarily with your own children".[502] Barnardo's identified as one of the weaknesses of the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 the fact that it does not provide for long term support beyond age 18, and has not led to improvements in the transition between children's and adult services.[503] Professor Mike Stein concurred that services can "disappear" after the period of immediate transition.[504] The importance of continuity in health services for care leavers, up to and even beyond the age of 25, was affirmed by several witnesses, although administrative boundaries can pose problems.[505] NCH wrote that care leavers are often "confronted with a 'cliff-face' at key transition stages whereby services end entirely or change considerably."[506]

187. The Children and Young Persons Act 2008 extended the duty on local authorities to appoint a Personal Adviser, and through them to keep the young person's pathway plan under regular review, to any care leaver aged up to 25 who is or is planning to be in education or training.[507] Martin Hazlehurst gave his view on this reform:

    We would certainly like to see the Care Matters proposals around an extension of support to 25 for education to be extended to other areas. Some young people have emerging mental health problems at 21, 22 or 23. Some young people become homeless at 21, 22 or 23. Restricting it to education is missing the point a bit. Young people have needs that last longer than 21.[508]

The duty to provide a Personal Adviser should be extended to all care leavers until age 25, not just those who have education or training plans. The terms on which this provision has been extended risk excluding some of the most vulnerable young people from continuing support. The role of the Personal Adviser should include facilitating access to health and social care services when needed. We recommend that the Government explore ways of ensuring that care leavers have full and proper access to health, social care and education services, commensurate with their needs, until they are 25 years old.

ACCOMMODATION FOR CARE-LEAVERS

188. A dearth of suitable accommodation for care leavers is an area of huge concern to many of the organisations that have given evidence to the inquiry.[509] Research shows that the situation worries many young people too. Thirty per cent of care leavers interviewed by A National Voice for their publication No Place Like Home did not feel safe where they were living. Twelve per cent were living in bed and breakfast or hostel accommodation, and more than half felt they had had no real choice in the accommodation offered to them.[510] Maxine Wrigley reported that one in ten care leavers end up "sofa surfing" at friends' houses, often because while they had a flat of their own, "it was in such a dodgy area that they did not feel safe or want to go round there".[511] Care leavers are all too often allocated accommodation in very disadvantaged areas, where their inherent vulnerability is compounded by proximity to problems such as substance abuse, exploitation and crime.[512]

189. A National Voice surveyed leaving care workers and personal advisers, and found that about half of them felt that it was not possible for their authorities to provide safe, damp free, decorated accommodation in a location that was without risk from anti-social neighbours.[513] Local authorities told us that a lack of affordable accommodation in many areas was principally to blame for the problems experienced by care leavers.[514] Rainer attributed the problem partly to poor planning and lack of co-operation between children's and housing services: "Often it is simply a failure to plan for something that it is known that almost all young people will need."[515] Martin Hazlehurst told us that some authorities put a great deal of effort into commissioning accommodation and associated services, while others appear to look for accommodation "on a wing and a prayer". He suggested that the new duty on local authorities to secure sufficient local placements for children in care be extended to cover supported accommodation for care leavers.[516] Barnardo's recommended that joint protocols between children's services and housing authorities should include arrangements to give care leavers priority in accommodation allocation[517] Marion Davis, Director of Children's Services at Warwickshire County Council, suggested that private and voluntary sector providers need more reassurance that support will be available to maintain a young person's tenancy.[518]

190. The Care Matters Green Paper proposed the establishment of a capital investment fund to support the provision of dedicated accommodation for care leavers.[519] Although the White Paper stated that the Government remained committed to this proposal, the fund does not appear in the Care Matters implementation action log published in March 2008.[520] We seek reassurance from the Government that funding will be made available to local authorities that experience particular difficulties in finding suitable accommodation for care leavers due to local housing shortages. We recommend that the Government extend the new 'sufficient placements' duty to include supported and independent accommodation for those leaving care.

191. When we asked Baroness Morgan about the Government's role in ensuring that there is sufficient accommodation for care leavers, she told us:

    The pilots, particularly the leaving care pilot, have focused on the importance of empowering the young person to take […] a pivotal role in their own decision-making about leaving care, such as having the opportunity to make their own assessment of any accommodation that might be offered.[521]

Accommodation for 16 and 17 year olds can fall between regulatory regimes, and is not subject to assessment against clear standards.[522] We put it to the Minister that care leavers do not at present have a choice of suitable accommodation. She told us that in new statutory guidance on accommodation:

    We will look at how the vetting and assessment of supported lodgings providers should be conducted and how children's services will be expected to work in genuine partnership with the full range of local housing providers and registered social landlords.[523]

We do not consider that these proposals amount to a robust framework of standards for care leavers' accommodation. A quality assurance framework for care leavers' accommodation should be developed so that housing options can be assessed against nationally agreed standards; it should not be left up to a young person to say that the accommodation they are offered is unsuitable. No care leaver should be placed in bed and breakfast accommodation, and the availability of suitable accommodation must be considered a prerequisite for a move to independent living.

192. Over a third of young people report being homeless at some time in the year after leaving care according to research quoted by Rainer.[524] The Care Matters White Paper said that homelessness should be avoided through implementation of a young person's pathway plan, but "where such arrangements break down, the homelessness legislation provides an essential safety net".[525] Sixteen and 17 year olds and young people aged between 18 and 20 who have been in care have priority need for accommodation under the Homelessness Act 2002, meaning that local authorities must secure suitable accommodation for them if they become homeless through no fault of their own. Chris Callender of the Howard League for Penal Reform described how the legislation affects care leavers in practice:

    The answer [to provision of suitable accommodation for young people leaving care or custody] is simple: you do not put children through the homelessness route. You do not dump them in bed and breakfasts, which is what the homeless persons unit is all about. You look after these children. Sixteen and 17-year-olds are the big group that get dumped in that way—I use "dumped", because that is how it feels when I am talking to these kids. They are placed in bed and breakfasts under Housing Act legislation. Sometimes they are found intentionally homeless. You have 16-year-old children wandering around the streets of England who have been found intentionally homeless. Therefore, the housing authority has no duty to them and social services are merely ignoring them […] The difficulty is that the Housing Act legislation allows local authority social services to sidestep their duties by pushing people down the homelessness route.[526]

Martin Hazlehurst told us that although the situation is slowly improving, "We still hear of places where the recognised route into housing is, 'Go and pretend that you are homeless'".[527] A young person may find themselves being deemed intentionally homeless because of a wide range of circumstances that are more likely to apply to vulnerable or under-supported care leavers—significant rent arrears, leaving a tenancy unexpectedly or a spell in custody, for example.[528] Rainer suggested that the main reason care leavers typically feel they have no choice about the accommodation offered to them is that a refusal could lead to them being declared "intentionally" homeless.[529] They concluded that there should be a presumption against declaring any care leaver intentionally homeless except in extreme circumstances.[530]

193. The Government issued guidance in May 2008 on joint working between housing and children's services to prevent youth homelessness.[531] We heard how effective joint working between housing and children's services can forestall problems by anticipating the difficulties that might lead to a terminated tenancy and by taking young people back into supported accommodation when necessary.[532] There are practical difficulties in making such joint working a reality, however. John Hill told us that

    […]my experience was that you had to spend quite a lot of time educating housing people about their responsibilities […] and trying to show them that, actually, this group of young people is different and should be their priority because of the [corporate] parenting role.[533]

Martin Hazlehurst described the "constant juggling act" of an upper-tier children's services authority dealing with district councils as the housing authorities: "Some district councils just will not contemplate the very idea that there are any young people in care in their districts".[534] There should be a presumption against declaring any care leaver intentionally homeless. Every children's services authority should be required to adopt a joint working protocol with the relevant housing departments or authorities, to ensure that care leavers are given every possible support in maintaining tenancies. Key managers within housing departments should be included in corporate parenting training.

Preventing involvement in the criminal justice system

194. Although the overall numbers are small, children in care are disproportionately likely to be brought into contact with the youth justice system and to enter into custody.[535] In 2007, looked-after children aged 10 or over were more than twice as likely to be convicted or subject to a final reprimand or warning as other children of this age.[536] Looked-after children are in general more likely to have been exposed to the risk factors associated with youth offending, such as lack of parental support and poor attendance at school, and can exhibit challenging behaviour as a reaction to the circumstances that led to them becoming looked after.[537] We received some evidence indicating that certain features of the care system itself exacerbate the chances of looked-after children becoming involved with the criminal justice system.[538] Young people have told us, for example, that if they are not settled in a good placement, they are more likely to spend time out and about and at risk of getting into trouble.[539] Greater placement stability and measures to reduce the number of out-of-area placements (a known risk factor for offending), should help in the long run to reduce the numbers of looked-after children who offend.[540]

195. There are specific issues with the way in which carers, particularly in residential homes, deal with incidents such as property damage, or young people going missing.[541] Bob Ashford, Head of Youth Justice Strategy at the Youth Justice Board (YJB) told us:

    […]one of our biggest concerns is that many young people enter residential care without an offending history, but end up with one after becoming involved in "incidents" at the residential home. If the young person was in their own home or in foster care, such incidents would be dealt with by the parents or foster carers. As you have heard, very often, the staff in residential homes involved in such incidents will tend to be among the youngest and most underpaid in the social care field without the necessary qualifications and support. They will, therefore, tend to call the police, as a result of which incidents and behaviour that might be fairly trivial end up as offences heard in court and the young person ends up with a criminal history.[542]

Dr Di Hart, NCB's Principal Officer, Youth Justice and Welfare, suggested that the very nature of residential care was part of the problem: "Various people have suggested that the worst thing to do with a turbulent, troubled adolescent is to accommodate them in a residential home with lots of other turbulent, troubled adolescents."[543] She suggested that the difference between looked-after children and others is not necessarily in their behaviour, but in institutional responses to that behaviour; magistrates, for example, may treat looked-after children more harshly, such as being unwilling to bail a young person who lives in a children's home.[544]

196. The Care Matters Green Paper included a commitment to develop a protocol on how children's homes should work with the police and Youth Offending Teams to manage offending or anti-social behaviour while avoiding criminalisation whenever possible.[545] The Youth Justice Board told us that protocols of this type have been operating in some places since 2001, and there are indications that in combination with other measures they can effect significant reductions in the number of recorded offences by looked-after children.[546] There was little, however, in the White Paper about the links between the care system and offending.[547] In July 2008 the Government published its cross-departmental Youth Crime Action Plan. The action plan put a great deal of emphasis on the role of parenting in preventing offending, yet it did not address the responsibility of corporate parents for children in their care.[548] We asked the Minister, Baroness Morgan, what can be done to address this issue explicitly in planning for children in care. She told us that it was important for all professionals to create "the right environment, in which these young people would flourish and which would not trigger […] offending behaviour".[549]

197. To some extent, we recognise that general improvements in the care system—stable placements that are properly supported, help to achieve at school, and a gradual transition to independence—will help to prevent looked-after children offending. However, opportunities have been missed to take further specific steps to address this. We ask the Government to revisit the Youth Crime Action Plan to address explicitly the state's responsibility as corporate parent for the disproportionate criminalisation of young people in care.

Looked-after children in custody

198. Although we know that young people in care are disproportionately likely to commit offences, it is not known at a national level how many looked-after children are in the youth justice system or specifically in custody.[550] Pam Hibbert, Assistant Director-Policy at Barnardo's, estimated that around half of children in custody have some experience of the care system.[551] Custodial sentences can be very disruptive and destabilising for looked-after children.[552] Children who are looked after under section 31 care orders and then enter custody retain their looked-after status, while children who are voluntarily accommodated under section 20 lose this status upon entering custody. The Care Matters Green Paper acknowledged that "many of these [voluntarily accommodated] children require just as much support while in custody as those in care under a care order", and proposed that local authorities be required to carry out an assessment of their needs when entering youth custody, "with an expectation that they will continue to be supported as a child in care. In most cases this will entail a social worker, a care plan, and continued support as a child in care on leaving custody."[553]

199. In the White Paper this proposal was replaced by a commitment (now legislated for in the Children and Young Persons Act 2008) to extend the requirement to visit children in care to those children who were voluntarily accommodated immediately before entering custody.[554] The White Paper explains that this is intended as "a mechanism to identify those young people who should have a needs assessment so that where necessary local authority children's services makes proper plans for them on release; which could include […] readmitting the young person to care."[555] NCB and the Youth Justice Board expressed support for the commitment to ensuring that local authorities maintain a relationship with all looked-after children who go into custody, though both sought assurances that the visits would be conducted by children's services social workers.[556] However, the new requirement was a cause of disappointment for several organisations, who described it as "watered down" and "a missed opportunity".[557] Bob Ashford of the Youth Justice Board and Chris Callender, Assistant Director (Legal) of the Howard League for Penal Reform, both told us they would like voluntarily-accommodated children to retain their looked-after status in custody, because of the entitlements to assistance that this would bring.[558]

200. Di Hart of the NCB commented on the impact of the loss of looked-after status on voluntarily-accommodated children when they go into custody:

    in practice that means that some local authorities will then just close the case and say, 'That child is not our responsibility while they are in custody. Give us a ring when they are due out and we might, or might not, accommodate them again.' Those children are in complete limbo […] The Bill attempts to strengthen that arrangement by saying that the local authority will still have a duty to visit those children, but it does not say—I think that a lot of this will be in regulations and guidance—that it will have to assess them, provide services for them, and arrange for them to have somewhere to live. All it says at the moment is that the local authority will have a duty to visit them.[559]

We heard that some authorities do not actively continue their parenting role even with children on care orders who enter the secure estate, despite already having a statutory responsibility to do so.[560] Inspections have revealed that a quarter of authorities do not provide an adequate service for children in custody who retain their looked-after status, with some inappropriately transferring their care responsibilities to Youth Offending Teams.[561] Di Hart reported that looked-after children in custody overwhelmingly

    […]felt abandoned by the social care system. They had had social workers with whom they were familiar in the looked-after system. Once they started to commit offences, they felt that they had somehow been handed over to the youth justice system. […] They lost their placement while they were in custody, so they almost had to start again when they came out. All of the things that had supported them before—the relationships and placements—had been severed.[562]

201. Some of our witnesses attributed the lack of contact with looked-after children in custody to local authorities wishing to divest themselves of financial responsibility for children's care, and the practical difficulties of visiting children who are placed in institutions some distance away.[563] However, Caroline Abrahams, LGA Programme Director for Children & Young People, refuted these claims: "I do not think that anyone has any evidence that stacks up that suggests that [the cost shift] influences the decisions that local authorities make."[564]

202. We asked the Minister how we can ensure that local authorities do what they are supposed to do, specifically with respect to visiting in custody. She told us:

    […]it is about having a tough inspection regime so that if local authorities are not doing this, their Ofsted inspection will show that their children's services are not delivering in the way that we expect them to. There is a lever; we just have to makes sure that we are using it.[565]

We recommend that children accommodated under voluntary agreements should retain their looked-after status when entering custody; we consider that this would be a greater safeguard of the continuity of each young person's care than the new requirement to continue visiting children. We are concerned that even children on care orders may not be receiving the services they are entitled to when in custody, and we seek reassurance that inspection will be an adequate tool for enforcing the new visiting requirements when it has apparently failed to enforce existing requirements.

203. The Howard League for Penal Reform expressed concern that many young people who enter the criminal justice system have never received the protection or assistance of looked-after status, despite having very similar needs to those in the care system. They might have been abused or been homeless, but have never been identified as needing assistance. Youth Offending Team workers may recognise these needs, but are unable formally to designate a child as "in need" or to instigate accommodation on behalf of the local authority, and many children's services departments are unwilling to accept referrals from YOTs for assessments.[566] We recommend that the Government identify and implement a mechanism for automatically triggering a needs assessment by the relevant children's services authority when a child comes into contact with the criminal justice system.

204. We heard concern from several quarters that the care and youth justice systems do not always work well together, either because they have different aims and values, or because of administrative divisions.[567] Bob Ashford disagreed with the characterisation of a "welfare/justice divide" but told us that "many local agencies, such as children's services, now see young people who are offending and who are also looked after as the remit of the local youth offending team."[568] Chris Callender put it more bluntly; children's services, he said, "dump on Youth Offending Teams".[569] Di Hart argued that social care services interpreted the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (which established YOTs) as "letting them off the hook" in terms of responsibility for young people who offend.[570] We recommend that the lead responsibility of children's services for looked-after children in the youth justice system be re-asserted, so that extremely vulnerable children are not denied the support they need by being excluded from mainstream services when they come into contact with Youth Offending Teams.

205. In 2005 the Youth Justice Board established and funded posts for social workers in each of the 25 Young Offenders Institutions (YOIs) in England and Wales. The YJB's evaluation indicated that this was an important specialist service that dealt with a previously unmet need.[571] Bob Ashford told us that "in terms of the contacts, knowledge and expertise of those social workers within youth custody, it has been extremely valuable."[572] In January 2008 the DCSF stated that local authorities with YOIs in their areas should fund the posts from 2009-10 onwards.[573] The Howard League for Penal Reform told us that uncertainty about the funding had contributed to recruitment and retention problems, with only 10 of the 25 posts filled in January 2008.[574] Bob Ashford told us that the YJB "have some concerns—I will be quite frank—about how, if and when local authorities will be able to pick up that responsibility, given the other budgetary pressures in social services."[575] We ask the Government to guarantee future funding for social workers posts in Youth Offending Institutions.

Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children

206. In 2007, 3,525 unaccompanied children aged 17 or under applied for asylum in the United Kingdom.[576] The Care Matters White Paper confirmed the Government's policy that it is appropriate for the majority of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to enter local authority care. At 31st March 2008, 3,500 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children were looked after, 66% of them aged 16 or over.[577] Baroness Morgan told us that "when unaccompanied asylum-seeking children arrive in this country they are looked-after children and should benefit from all the services, support and care that any looked-after child should expect."[578] There are however, obvious differences in the circumstances of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children which set them apart from the majority of the care population, principally that their care and pathway planning must take into account the likelihood of their asylum claim being refused.

207. The Fostering Network, children's charity NCH, and the Association of Directors of Children's Services all expressed concerns to us about the place of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the care system, and whether they are guaranteed to receive the same types and level of support as other children in care.[579] Lisa Nandy, Chair of the Refugee Children's Consortium, argued that while Care Matters is a largely welcome package of reforms, policy on this specific group of looked-after children has generally gone and is going in the opposite direction, and "their asylum-seeking status has become the overriding element that determines the way in which they are treated and supported".[580] The Refugee Children's Consortium argued that the primacy of immigration control over children's welfare is at least partly a consequence of the fact that unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are the only group of children in the UK for which responsibility lies entirely outside the DCSF's remit.[581] The UK Border Agency, Lisa Nandy told us, "has a completely different set of skills and experience and a completely different ethos" to the DCSF.[582]

208. The Government has announced its intention to change the law to require the UK Border Agency to safeguard children by making it subject to section 11 of the Children Act 2004.[583] This is a welcome step, but one that will have little impact on the experience of asylum-seeking children already in the care system. We share the concern of witnesses to the inquiry that unaccompanied asylum-seeking children be considered as "children first and foremost",[584] and wish to see the Government take steps to ensure that this principle is reflected in policy and practice. We heard encouraging reports about the impact that the joint unit for youth justice has had in bringing together the DCSF and the Ministry of Justice since its launch in November 2007.[585] We recommend that the Department for Children, Schools and Families assume formal joint responsibility with the Home Office for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

209. In January 2008, the UK Border Agency published Better Outcomes: the way forward; improving the care of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Lisa Nandy told us that some of the proposals in Better Outcomes are at odds with the intentions of Care Matters (and in fact with the wider Every Child Matters agenda), specifically that unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the care system should leave their foster placements at age 16.[586] The very patchy support available to these children upon leaving care at 18, and the difficulty of obtaining funding for higher education are further points of concern.[587] Clear guidance must be given to local authorities that all of the provisions of Care Matters, and the principles of good care planning, apply equally and without exception to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. We are particularly anxious that the Government resolve the contradiction between the importance that Care Matters places on continuity of care for looked-after children older than 16, and the expectation that young asylum-seekers will leave their foster placements at that age.

210. Lisa Nandy described the lack of support available to unaccompanied children as they progress through the asylum system:

    Try to imagine a UK child who was alleging abuse, which is essentially what you get with this group of children and young people—they are alleging that they have been abused in some way. It would be unthinkable to put them through the sort of adult adversarial process that we put these children through at the moment, with very minimal support […] The sheer bewilderment among these children about the process that they are going through is incredible to behold."[588]

We heard of children having to instruct their own solicitors, and having to ring round schools to find themselves a place.[589] The Refugee Children's Consortium argued that a guardian should be appointed for every child in the asylum process, to ensure that they get a fair hearing.[590] Children's rights organisation ECPAT UK's 2007 report Missing Out identified 80 suspected or confirmed child trafficking victims, 60% of whom had gone missing from local authority care.[591] Information obtained by the Care Leavers' Association from local authorities, published in December 2008, showed that up to 389 children had gone missing from care since 2000 and had not subsequently been traced—a high proportion of these were unaccompanied asylum-seekers.[592] We support the idea of appointing guardians for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, to ensure that they are properly supported through the asylum process, and that swift access to services such as education is arranged on their behalf. We are concerned about the particular vulnerability of this group of children to trafficking, and would like the role of guardian to include a remit to ensure that children do not go missing.


381   Jackson, "Looking after children", p 23 Back

382   Care Matters White Paper, para 8; DfES, If this were my child… A councillor's guide to being a good corporate parent, 2003, p 3 Back

383   Ev 2 Back

384   Q 471 Back

385   Ofsted, the Healthcare Commission, the Commission for Social Care Inspection, and the inspectorates of police, CPS, court administration, prison service and probation service. Back

386   Safeguarding children, para 123 Back

387   Q 448 [Les Lawrence] Back

388   Children's Trusts are local arrangements for local authorities and their relevant partner agencies to promote the well-being of children and young people in that area by undertaking joint planning and commissioning. Back

389   Ev 80 [Care Matters Partnership] Back

390   H. Meltzer, R. Gatward, T. Corbin, R. Goodman, T. Ford, The Mental Health of Young People Looked After by Local Authorities in England (London 2003) Back

391   Care Matters White Paper, para 5.7 Back

392   Ev 85 [NCB]; Ev 91 [NSPCC]; Q 608 [Dr Proops] Back

393   Ev 85 [NCB] Back

394   A. Knight, E. Chase, P. Aggleton, 'Teenage pregnancy among young people in and leaving care', in Adoption and Fostering vol 30 (2006), p 60 Back

395   Care Matters White Paper, para 5.5 Back

396   Care Matters White Paper, para 5.71 Back

397   Ev 232 Back

398   Ev 88 NCB; Ev 80 Care Matters Partnership; NCB is an umbrella body for the children's sector in England and Northern Ireland, providing information on policy, research and best practice. The Care Matters Partnership is a partnership between the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, and Coram Families. Back

399   Q 173; Ev 91 Back

400   Q 184 Back

401   Q 171 Back

402   Ev 86 Back

403   Q 557 Back

404   Care Matters White Paper, para 5.16 Back

405   Ibid., paras 5.17, 5.21 Back

406   www.idea.gov.uk Back

407   DH, DCSF, DCLG, Guidance on the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, December 2007; Ev 94 NSPCC Back

408   Ev 93-4; Q 172-3 [Sue Dunstall] Back

409   Q 173 Back

410   Q 170 Back

411   DCSF, DH, Healthy lives, brighter futures: the strategy for children and young people's health, February 2009, para 4.55 Back

412   Q 171 Back

413   Ibid. Back

414   Q 175 ff.; Q 180 [Sue Dunstall]; Ev 93 [NSPCC] Back

415   Q 193 [Helen Chambers] Back

416   Q 171 [Helen Chambers, Dr Hill] Back

417   Ev 88 [NCB] Back

418   Ev 112 [BAAF]; Ev 88 [NCB]  Back

419   A 'virtual school head' oversees the education of all an authority's looked-after children, as if they were all in one school; see Ev 235 [London Borough of Hackney], Q 485 ff. Back

420   Q 202 Back

421   Ev 212 Back

422   Ev 91 Back

423   Care Matters White Paper, para 5.20 Back

424   Ibid., para 5.72 Back

425   Ev 93 Back

426   Ev 29 [FPI]; Q 59 [Mary McLeod]  Back

427   Ev 306 Back

428   Ev 82 Back

429   Qq 169, 180 [Sue Dunstall]; Q 182 [Rita Harris] Back

430   Ev 29 [FPI]; Q 59 [Mary MacLeod]; Ev 93 [NSPCC]; Q 190 [Dr Hill] Back

431   Q 182 [Dr Hill]; Ev 317 [Ofsted] Back

432   Q 190 [Dr Hill] Back

433   Ev 82-3 [Care Matters Partnership] Back

434   Q 108 [Professor Tunstill]; Ev 82 [Care Matters Partnership]; Ev 212 [ADCS]; Ev 306 [Association of Child Psychotherapists] Back

435   Q 42 Back

436   Q 187 Back

437   Ibid. Back

438   Ev 82-3 [Care Matters Partnership]; Q 190 [Dr Hill] Back

439   Q 184 Back

440   Q 190 Back

441   Ev 95 Back

442   Care Matters White Paper, para 12 Back

443   Ev 84 Back

444   Q 202 Back

445   Ev 97; Q 203 [Helen Chambers] Back

446   DCSF, Statistical First Release 23, September 2008 Back

447   Q 285 [Martin Hazlehurst] Back

448   Care Matters Green Paper, para 7.2 Back

449   Ev 4 [Barnardo's ]; Q 170 [Dr Harris]; Ev 29 [FPI]; Q 506 [Marion Davis] Back

450   Q 303 Back

451   Q 27 Back

452   Q 123 Back

453   Q 506 [Marion Davis]; Q 509 [Caroline Abrahams]; Ev 146 [Rainer] Back

454   Q 285 [Professor Stein; Steve Hillman]; Q 505 [Steve Goodman]; Q 506 [Marion Davis]  Back

455   Q 285 [Professor Stein] Back

456   Q 52 Back

457   Annex Back

458   Q 285 [Martin Hazlehurst] Back

459   Q 506 [Marion Davis] Back

460   Q 285 [John Hill] Back

461   Q 285 [Martin Hazlehurst] Back

462   Q 280 [Martin Hazlehurst]; The National Leaving Care Advisory Service provides information, advice and projects focused on young people leaving care. In April 2008 it merged with the What Makes The Difference? project to become the National Care Advisory Service, hosted by children's charity Rainer, which is now known as Catch22 following a merger with Crime Concern. Back

463   Q 505 Back

464   Care Matters White Paper, p 107 Back

465   Q 519 Back

466   Children and Young Persons Act 2008, Section 8 Back

467   Ev 165 [Howard League for Penal Reform] Back

468   Children, Schools and Families Committee, First Report of Session 2007-08, Children and Young Persons Bill [Lords], HC 359, para 42 ff.; Q 521 Back

469   Qq 521, 524 Back

470   Ev 59; Q 123 [Robert Tapsfield] Back

471   Care Matters White Paper, para 6.28; see para 96 above. Back

472   Ev 233 [LGA] Back

473   Q 285 [Martin Hazlehurst] Back

474   Ibid. Back

475   Q 285 Back

476   Q 27 Back

477   Ev 145 [Rainer] Back

478   Q 27 [Dr Morgan]; Qq 277, 283 [Professor Stein]; Q 506 [Marion Davis]; Ev 4 [Barnardo's]; Ev 34 [NCH] Back

479   Q 299 [Professor Stein]; Q 300 [Martin Hazlehurst] Back

480   See also para 227. Back

481   Ev 5 [Barnardo's]; Q 27 [Maxine Wrigley]; Q 474 [Pauline Newman]; Children, Schools and Families Committee, First Report of Session 2007-08, Children and Young Persons Bill [Lords], HC 359, Ev 55  Back

482   DCSF, Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation: draft guidance, July 2008, para 4.42 Back

483   'Leaving care loathing self', Community Care, 3 Feb 2005 Back

484   DCSF, Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation: draft guidance, July 2008 Back

485   Q 3 Back

486   Ev 317 Back

487   Safeguarding children: the joint chief inspectors' report on arrangements to safeguard children (July 2008), para 139 Back

488   Ev 145 [Rainer] Back

489   Q 10 Back

490   Q 282 Back

491   Ev 5 [Barnardo's]; Q 27 [Pam Hibbert]; Q 204 [Helen Chambers]; Q 291 [Professor Stein]; Q 293 [John Hill] Back

492   Q 284 [Hillman] Back

493   Q 280 Back

494   Care Matters White Paper, para 6.69 Back

495   Q 297 Back

496   Children and Young Persons Act 2008, Section 21 Back

497   Care Matters White Paper, paras 6.68 ff. Back

498   Ev 6 Back

499   Q 295 ff. Back

500   Qq 282, 301-2 Back

501   Care Matters White Paper, para 6.45  Back

502   Q 286 Back

503   Ev 5 Back

504   Q 283 Back

505   Qq 204, 286 Back

506   Ev 34; NCH is a national children's charity; since September 2008 it has been known as Action for Children. Back

507   Children and Young Persons Act, Section 22 Back

508   Q 286 Back

509   Q 303 ff.; Ev 317 [Ofsted] Back

510   A National Voice, There's No Place Like Home (2005) Back

511   Q 27 Back

512   Ev 5 [Barnardo's] Back

513   There's No Place Like Home, p3 Back

514   Q 27 [Maxine Wrigley]; Q 510 [Marion Davis, Pauline Newman] Back

515   Ev 146 Back

516   Q 303 Back

517   Ev 5 Back

518   Q 510 Back

519   Care Matters Green Paper, para 7.21 Back

520   Care Matters White Paper, para 6.56 Back

521   Q 538 Back

522   Q 285 [Martin Hazlehurst]; Ev 146 [Rainer] Back

523   Q 541 Back

524   Ev 146 Back

525   Care Matters White Paper, para 6.58 Back

526   Q 335 Back

527   Q 304 Back

528   Ev 6 [Barnardo's] Back

529   Rainer, Home alone: housing and support for young people leaving care (2007), p6 Back

530   Ev 146; see also Q 304 [Martin Hazlehurst]. Back

531   DCLG, DCSF, Joint working between housing and children's services: preventing homelessness and tackling its effects on children and young people, May 2008 Back

532   Q 305 [John Hill]; Ev 6 [Barnardo's] Back

533   Q 305 Back

534   Q 307 Back

535   Ev 170 [YJB] Back

536   DSCF, Statistical First Release 23, September 2008 Back

537   Ev 170 [YJB]; Q 316 [Dr Hart] Back

538   Q 316 [Dr Hart] Back

539   Annex Back

540   Ev 170 [YJB]; Q 313 [Bob Ashford]; Q 317 [Dr Hart]  Back

541   Q 123 [Kevin Williams]; Q 319 [Bob Ashford, Chris Callender] Back

542   Q 317 Back

543   Q 316 Back

544   Q 317 Back

545   Care Matters Green Paper, para 6.40 Back

546   Ev 170-1, 194 Back

547   Ev 32 [NCH] Back

548   Home Office, DCSF, Ministry of Justice, Youth Crime Action Plan 2008, July 2008 Back

549   Q 551 Back

550   Q 313 [Dr Hart]; Ev 195 [JYB] Back

551   Q 3 Back

552   Ev 172 [YJB] Back

553   Care Matters Green Paper, para 6.43 Back

554   Care Matters White Paper, para 3.82; Children and Young Persons Act 2008, Section 15 Back

555   Care Matters White Paper, para 3.82 Back

556   Ev 167; Q 333 [Bob Ashford], Ev 171-2 Back

557   Q 3 [Pam Hibbert]; Ev 146 [Rainer]; Ev 164 [Howard League for Penal Reform] Back

558   Q 330 ff. Back

559   Q 329; see also Q 313 [Chris Callender] Back

560   Q 330 Back

561   Safeguarding children: the joint chief inspectors' report on arrangements to safeguard children (July 2008), para 136 Back

562   Q 313 Back

563   Ev 32 [NCH]; Q 315 [Chris Callender, Dr Hart]; Ev 165 [Howard League for Penal Reform] Back

564   Q 473 Back

565   Q 553 Back

566   Ev 162-3 [Howard League for Penal Reform] Back

567   Q 313 [Dr Hart]; Q 472 Davis; Ev 166 [NCB]; Ev 212 [ADCS] Back

568   Qq 314, 337 Back

569   Q 315 Back

570   Q 337 Back

571   Ev 171 Back

572   Q 334 Back

573   Ev 163 [Howard League for Penal Reform]; Ev 171 [YJB] Back

574   Ev 163 Back

575   Q 334 Back

576   Home Office, Statistical Bulletin 11/08: Asylum Statistics United Kingdom 2007, August 2008 Back

577   DCSF, Statistical First Release 23, September 2008 Back

578   Q 555 Back

579   Ev 60-61; Ev 32; Ev 212; Ev 184 [Refugee Children's Consortium] Back

580   Q 344 Back

581   Q 347 Back

582   Ibid. Back

583   Q 555 Back

584   Ev 32 [NCH]; Ev 60 [Fostering Network]; Ev 183 [Refugee Children's Consortium] Back

585   Q 356-7; see also Q 348, Ev 183 Back

586   Q 352 Back

587   Qq 352, 365, 367 Back

588   Q 362 Back

589   Q 369, 374; Ev 336 ff. [Save the Children] Back

590   Ev 185 Back

591   Ev 194; ECPAT UK stands for End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes. See also Ev 337 [Save the Children]. Back

592   www.careleavers.com, December 2008; 'Trafficking fears for children missing from care', Children & Young People Now, 9 December 2008 Back


 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2009
Prepared 20 April 2009