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

Supplementary memorandum submitted by Pam Hibbert, Assistant Director—Policy, Barnardo's

  Following the oral evidence session on 19 March, I am writing as promised to provide further information to the Committee in response to Mr Chaytor's question (Q55) and to provide further detail on a number of other points raised in the evidence.

  At Question 55 Mr Chaytor asked what proportion of local authorities have a children's rights service, a children's rights officer, a children's participation worker or similar service, that give a voice to children in care. The organisation CROA (Children's Rights Officers and Advocates)[12] provides listings for independent children's rights officers/advocates across the UK covering approximately two-thirds of local authorities in England and Wales. However, it does not provide information as to whether local authorities have commissioned an independent advocacy service. We recommend Building a Culture of Participation: Involving children and young people in policy, service planning, delivery and evaluation[13] produced by the National Children's Bureau and PKRC as the best practice guide for giving a voice to young people.

  We also noted in our oral evidence about the legal duty to take into account children's views. Under s.53 Children Act 2004, there is a duty to ascertain children's wishes and feelings and give due consideration to them. During debates on the Bill the issue of whether there should also be a requirement to record this was briefly discussed.[14] Barnardo's believe that s.53 should be amended to include a requirement to record the child's views and whether or not any action was taken.

  At Question 8, I provided information from a piece of research undertaken in France, Germany and England.[15] Further comparisons can be made using that research, between children in residential care in England and Germany in relation to outcomes for children and staffing issues. In Germany, 59% of children in care live in residential establishments of up to 150 children, compared to 14% in England. In England 11.6% of children under 16 who are in residential care were not attending school compared to 2.2% of children in Germany; and less than 50% were in post 16 education or training compared to 70% in Germany. English residential units have considerable difficulty in retaining staff, 46% of managers reported this as a major problem compared to just 8% of managers in Germany.

  In England, Government standards from 2005 specify that at least 80% of residential staff should have a Level 3 NVQ in caring for children and young people. But despite investment in training, this target is not being met; with 36% of staff still have no qualification at all. By contrast in Germany the most basic level of training required is a three year vocational college qualification and the preferred qualification is that of a four year degree in social pedagogy. Over half of residential staff have the higher level qualification and there has been a sustained and deliberate policy to professionalize the residential care task through taking a pedagogic approach, resulting in a confident and well respected workforce.

  Adoption and fostering are often considered preferable, particularly for younger children; but for some children, group living is the most appropriate placement. Children who may have had a number of foster carers, older children and young people and those who have very strong family ties can be better served and frequently express a preference for residential rather than foster care.

  At Question 15, to clarify the figures from our research with young people to get their views about Care Matters. We spoke to 136 children and young people and 34 foster carers; 74% of the children and 21 of the foster carers told us that they would like someone to talk to or seek advice from outside of normal office hours. Barnardo's Marlborough Road Partnership[16] provides supported housing and a range of other services for vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people aged 16 to 21 in Cardiff and Newport. As part of this 24-hour on-call support is offered at a cost of approximately £11,000 pa.

  In response to Question 22 we mentioned our research involving care experienced young people in inspections of children's services.[17] Together with a consortium of voluntary sector partners, we recruited and trained a group of young people who had experience of being in care to take part in 19 inspections and get the views of children and young people currently in care for the Social Services Inspectorate (SSI). The purpose was to develop a process for gathering better information directly from children, young people and their carers which enables them to give their views and opinions on how well local authorities listen and respond to them. A copy of this report is attached for your information.[18]

  I would also like to take this opportunity to reinforce our optimism about the changes that are taking place through the implementation of Care Matters; however, as I noted in my evidence at Q3 we believe that there are three continuing areas of concern:

    —  The need for independent advocacy for children in care.

    —  Better support for transitions for children leaving care.

    —  Children in care who go into custody.

  Barnardo's is also a member of the Refugee Children's Consortium, and we urge the Committee to take the needs of unaccompanied children seeking asylum into account during the course of the inquiry.

April 2008

12   www.croa.org.uk. Back

13   Kirby, P, Lanyon, C., Cronin, K, Sinclair, R (2003) Building a Culture of Participation: Involving children and young people in policy, service planning, delivery and evaluation. London: DfES. Back

14   House of Lords Hansard, 15 July 2004, Col 1476 onwards. The issue was not discussed further in the Commons, as at Committee Stage the Minister said that she would return with amendments at Report, and at Report Stage the amendments were passed without debate but did not include a requirement to record. Back

15   Petrie, P; Boddy J; Cameron C et al Working with children in care Open University Press 2006. Back

16   http://www.barnardos.org.uk/marlboroughroad.htm Back

17   Hibbert, P (2002) Voices and Choices: young people participating in inspections. Learning from the Listening and Responding component of Social Services Inspectorate (SSI) inspections of local authority children's services. Ilford: Barnardo's. Back

18   Not printed Back

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