Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Fantastic News from the Scottish Parliament

From April 2015, in Scotland, teenagers in residential, foster or kinship care who turn 16 will be entitled to remain looked after until the age of 21 under new provisions proposed for the Children and Young People Bill.

This increased support, to be funded by £5 million a year up to 2020, is in addition to the Scottish Government’s recent commitment to provide support up to the age of 26-years-old for care leavers to help them move into independent living.

Minister for Young People Aileen Campbell said:

“It is vitally important that the support available to young people leaving care will help make the transition to independent living as comfortable and successful as possible. Care leavers in Scotland currently receive care and financial support up to the age of 21 and we have already committed to extending this to 26. We are now able to announce that, from April next year, those 16-year-olds in foster, kinship or residential care will have a right to stay up until the age of 21 before receiving aftercare.’

So fantastic news from Scotland. And in case there was any doubt, this proves it can be done!

This is, sadly, in marked contrast to the conspiracy of silence and abdication of responsibility evidenced by UK Ministers. We wrote to Edward Timpson before Christmas to ask if some of the ECLCM team and children in residential homes could meet him to discuss a way forward. To date we have had not even had this acknowledged – never mind a substantive  response.

At the Education Committee on 16th December 2013, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, appeared to answer questions, some of which came from the public via Twitter. He was asked why there was a different care leaving age for foster children than for children in children’s homes, given that those in children’s homes are often the most vulnerable?  

In response, Mr Gove said:

"Until we are absolutely certain that we’ve got the situation right with residential homes—residential care and residential care homes—and the policies are properly aligned, we won’t extend the age there…Fostering is different…’

If care leavers don’t get support, many will then go on cost the state more in:
  • the criminal justice system
  • the benefit system
  • the mental health system
  • in homelessness

As the new reforms for those in foster care are implemented, we will have a two-tier system – those in foster care will get extra support until they are 21 – those in residential care will be forced to leave, what has become a place of safety for many, when they are 16+

Duncan Dunlop, Chief Executive of Who Cares Scotland said:

 “…all the resilience in the world can’t help them overcome some of the dreadful issues they face as young adults when they leave care at 16 or 18. The long-term effect of what they experience as young adults impacts on them heavily. Many lose hope; stop dreaming for better or look to coping solutions which include drugs and alcohol to get through the day."

A recent comment on Twitter by a government advisor stated this: ‘Some who resent fostering reform would welcome a cure for cancer by bleating "What about heart disease? We want equality for all diseases."

We resent any inference that we ‘resent fostering reform’ – we wholeheartedly celebrate this news.  To liken equality for all ‘vulnerable’ children (as this it what they are) in care to different cures for diseases is imbecilic. 

We have a question for Mr Gove:

What part of ‘equality’ don’t you understand?  

The ECLCM team and all the signatories of our petition embrace the concept of equality. Any two babies of whatever colour, creed, gender, ethnicity  etc, born in whichever  maternity ward in Britain with a heart condition would and should expect to receive the best medical assistance available. Any two four year old children will be offered schools to attend. Any two children needing medication will have it provided for them by the NHS. Any two adolescents who need a brace for their teeth will be able to ask a dentist to do it for them and the state will pay. Any two children deemed to be in need of care and protection will be looked after by the state. One goes to foster care and the other to a children’s home one of them can stay till they are 21 the other can’t. How can you justify that Mr Gove?

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