Children & Social Work Bill

Written evidence submitted by The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (TACT) (CSWB 74)

Written evidence from TACT to support amendments to the Children and Social Work Bill at Committee Stage

Amendments and supporting evidence

1 NC13 Free Tuition Fees for Care Leavers

2 NC22 Special Guardianship Order

The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (TACT) is the largest fostering and adoption charity in the UK. At TACT, not only have we been helping to provide loving homes for vulnerable children for 24 years – we are also a voice for children in care. Which is why we hope you will support, propose and realise the following amendments.

www.tactcare.org.uk

The Children and Social Work Bill

Amendments and supporting evidence 1

NC 13 Review of access to education for care leavers

Moved by Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck

"Review of access to education for care leavers"

"Review of access to education for care leavers "

(1) The Secretary of State must carry out an annual review on access for care leavers

t o -

(a) apprenticeships,

(b) further education, and

(c) higher education.

(2) The first review must take place by the end of the period of one year beginning

with the day on which this Act is passed.

(3) A report produced following a review under sub-section (1) must include, in

particular, an assessment of the impact of-

(a) fee waivers,

(b) grants, and

(c) reduced costs of accommodation.

The report must be made publicly available."

Background

The impetus for supporting this proposal has come about as a result of our work with the children and young people supported at TACT. They have shared their experiences of education and training with us and it is clear that something must be done to improve access to apprenticeships and higher education for young people in and leaving the care system.

This amendment suggests the Government reviews waiving tuition fees or offering a guaranteed apprenticeship to care leavers at the debate stage. We very much hope that this committee will support this

Evidence

Being in care does not stop you from achieving a successful life. However, children and young people who have spent time in the care system in the UK are less likely than other children to achieve academic success.

In fact, they are more likely to have problems with crime, drugs and mental health than their peers who have not spent time in care, and statistics from the DfE as published by the Who Cares Trust show

•Only 6% of care leavers go to university - compared with 38% of all young people.

•When they leave primary school, 43% of children in care will have reached the national curriculum test level expected for their age - compared with 74% of all children.

•Almost one third of children in care leave school with no GCSEs or vocational tests like GNVQs.

•Only 13.2% of children in care obtain five good GCSEs - compared with 57.9% of all children.1

TACT Education Survey

In December 2016 TACT completed a survey of 81 children and young people in our care and 89 TACT foster carers on their experience of education.

The education of children in care has rightly been put under scrutiny over the past 10 years. Next to loving caring and a nurturing home, education is one of the most important factors determining life chances for children in care, and is of course linked inextricably with employment. But improvements in positive outcomes in education for children in care continue to be far too slow.

The face to face interviews that we conducted with the children and young people that we support gave TACT the motivation for this amendment. Our evidence shows that low aspirations are a direct result of falling behind due to periods of missed education and a lack of confidence. All of these issues were raised with the Children’s Champions at TACT. Two of the Champions received good GCSE grades. However when it comes to choosing a university conversation does not focus on their educational needs, the reputation of the institution (Oxbridge, Russell Group etc ) and more about the willingness of the universities to waive a proportion of the tuition fees to make higher education financially accessible.

In many cases there has been gradual improvement in educational outcomes, arguably as a result of repeated policy interventions by central government over a long period and, despite the well-publicised failures, more effective action by local authorities. However, the rate of improvement has been slow and, to take one example, only around 6% of care leavers go on to university, a percentage which has hardly changed in recent years. Children in care have the wealthiest parent of all - the state – yet it fails them in this most fundamental aspect of child development: education. It may well be that children in care today are more likely to go to prison than to go on to get a degree, which is quite unacceptable.

Proposal costing

There is no evidence to suggest that free tuition fees for care leavers would break the public services budget.

310 care leavers go to University each year (based on 6% of 18 year olds in care (93,000 in care, divided by 18 (age bands) and 6% of that figure)

 

310 X 9000 = £2,790,000 per year BUT it is a loan where repayment is only triggered by the graduate triggering a salary level requirement.

 

We don’t know how many students in total actually repay the loan. We have put this question to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Whatever that is, the cost will be that % of the figure.

The recent Parliamentary briefing on Student Loans shows that 12% of those taking out student loans for tuition fees are consistently are not expected to repay.

 

The final approximate cost will be £2,790,00 per year at most . This is not a year on year cost and will not start until 2020 at the earliest if bought in for September 2016

Prevention

The proposal shouldn’t be seen as an increase in expenditure. In the longer term it will actually cut public expenditure on children’s social care.

There is much research to show how positive experiences of care can save money. A report on Looked-after children who move placement repeatedly and have a negative experience of care can cost councils up to 32,755 more each year than their counterparts in stable homes. The report from Demos titled In Loco Parentis (2010), is based on research with looked-after children, care leavers and foster carers, sets out two hypothetical "care journeys".

"Child A" has a positive journey through care, with stability in housing and school arrangements. This reflects the 5-10 per cent of children in care who experience long-term, stable placements and supported transitions.

"Child B" experiences a poor journey through the care system, with several placement moves and an early departure from the care system. This represents the 5-10 per cent of children who experience instability and disruption in care.

This evidence shows that a positive experience of the care system over 14 years costs £354,053. But a negative experience over just half that time years costs £393,579, a difference of £41,526.

The report also considered the costs associated with adult outcomes after care. "Child A" who leaves care at 18 with good mental health and strong relationships, goes to university and finds a job could cost the state £20,119 between the age of 16 and 30.

But "Child B" who leaves care at 16, with poor mental health and no qualifications could cost the state £111,923 in the same time.

The report is not new but the trends in outcomes for children in care remain poor. The evidence suggests that free access to University can actually help children leaving care have a positive start to their adolescent life, get a qualification and a greater chance of employment and a successful life.

Scotland

This year the Scottish government made a policy announcement on this very issue the First Minister explained "We will ensure that young people who have experience of care, and who meet the minimum entry standards, will be offered a place at university and, in addition to ensuring they have free tuition like all students, we will support them with a full bursary, currently £7,625, from 2017/18."

This is designed to provide extra, targeted help to those who most need so that every young person regardless of gender, wealth, or their family circumstances –have a fairer chance to succeed.

Conclusion

To really make the difference we all have to work harder to listen and learn from each other, to transfer our good ideas, skills and knowledge and always to seek out and listed to the voices of children and young people in care themselves. TACT is currently working with the children and young people and foster carers who provide and are in our care. Their voices tell us that next to a secure and safe home, education is a top priority that they need help with. As children make the transition from looked after child to care leaver, and find themselves all alone without a parent or carer to advise – then the idea of a student loan will simply not be an option and access to university will not be possible. This amendment is a practical way of narrowing the attainment gap for children leaving care and their peers without experience of the care system. This will be an effective way to improve educational outcomes for children in care and life chances.

The Children and Social Work Bill

Amendments and supporting evidence 2

NC22 Extending Placement Orders to Special Guardianship Orders

Moved by Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck

"Extending Placement Orders to Special Guardianship Orders

In the Adoption and Children Act 2002, after section 21, insert-

"21A Placement orders: special guardianship orders

(1) In this section a placement order is an order made by the court authorising

a local authority to place a child, whom that local authority has decided

should be placed under a special guardianship order, with any

prospective special guardian who may be identified by the authority.

(2) A "prospective special guardian" is a person who is entitled to apply for

a special guardianship order with respect to a child under section 14A(5)

of the Children Act 1989.

(3) The court may not make a placement order in respect of a child unless-

(a) the child is subject to a care order.

Evidence to support the addition of the SGO clause

Given the significant rise in SGO's granted and the ongoing and increasing tension between the 26 weeks for conclusion of care proceedings and the need to safely and thoroughly assess family members in respect of SGO holders it is vital that this issue is addressed. This amendment offers a very sensible solution that has a long history of working in cases of adoption orders (to which SGO's bear many similarities). Having a separate placement order that is available in SGO cases will allow for proceedings to conclude in 26 weeks whilst giving the local authority sufficient time to undertake a robust and thorough assessment of the SGO applicants, place the child with them where indicated, assess the suitability of this placement with the child in situ and then returned to court to support the applicants in applying for an SGO order.

It is important that sufficient time is given for the assessment as increasingly family members coming forward have little or no meaningful relationship with the child. It must also be remembered that the assessment is not only a time for social workers to explore the suitability of the family, it is a time which must allow space for the family members themselves to reflect on their commitment to looking after the child for the duration of their minority. A clear lesson that we have learned from fostering and adoption is that the assessment process does allow families the opportunity to conclude that this is not the right course of action for them. Under the current SGO arrangements far too often family members of hurried through an assessment process which not only gives insufficient time for them to be properly assessed but also gives no time for them to reflect on their commitment to this life changing and lifelong decision.

The risk posed by continuing with a process where local authorities are only granted a few weeks to complete an assessment have been focussed recently by the deaths of two children placed with relatives under a special guardianship order. The death of these children resulted directly from the actions of those relatives who were granted the order. Shanay Walker, age 7 was being cared by her aunt who inflicted 50 injuries on her and was convicted of child cruelty along with the grandmother. In another case, Kandyce Downer was convicted of murdering 18 month old Keegan Downer and sentenced to 18 years.

Another case involving the death of a child has been subject to a serious case review by the Hertfordshire Local Safeguarding Board. Other cases have focused on the abuse of children. Bonnie was sexually abused by the former partner of the Special Guardian grandmother [1] . A further case resulted in a child being returned to care after the relationship between the maternal grandparents broke down two weeks after the order was made due to the grandfather’s use of the special guardianship allowance to fund his drug and alcohol use and gambling [2] .

In each of these cases, there have been significant questions raised about the adequacy of safeguarding arrangements especially when these children have been subject to sustained and serious abuse. Where there have been serious case reviews, a typical picture has been presented about the sufficiency of assessments, the recognition and evaluation of the injuries sustained by the child and the poor quality of inter-agency communication, planning and decision making.

There are also questions to be explored about the significance of making a special guardianship order in terms of being satisfied about the safety of the child and the sufficiency of care across all domains of the child’s development – physical health, emotional and social, cognitive and learning - all facilitated by sensitive, thoughtful and reasonably resourced parenting and a family for life. At least 16 weeks is required to undertake an assessment that can address these issues thoroughly

The questions raised by these cases are important but they need to be set alongside the thousands of placements created through Special Guardianship where the safety and care of the child are as they are expected to be. At the same time, it is important to recognise that as is well recognised in adoption, the actual placement is only the first step in what is likely to be a complex unfolding of issues as a new family life is created around the child – the evolution of those issues that are known about the child, the emergence of unknown issues, and the working out of solutions to any of this based on new family relationships to create better outcomes in what is in essence the unfolding of a life journey.

The new placement order approach has widespread support in the family judiciary, Cafcass and amongst directors of children's services. The Minister may want to pilot this in a number of family court areas if he remains uncertain about its workability.

January 2017


[1] http://www.devonsafeguardingchildren.org/documents/2016/01/dscb-scr-cn11.pdf

[2] R (A Child), Re [2016] EWFC B3 (28 January 2016) para.23

 

Prepared 11th January 2017