We are a diverse group of campaigners and in no way align, as a group, to any political party or belief system. We are focused on the best possible outcomes for children and young people and do not concern ourselves with political lobbies or factions.
The article in question appears in Conservative Home. To reiterate, the political affiliation of the magazine is not our concern, but the article certainly is.
The first paragraph tells us that "6000 children are placed in institutional care, children’s homes". It is immediately obvious that the author has limited idea about his subject. Institutional care is not the prerogative of children’s homes. It may be present in poor children’s homes and foster homes anywhere in the country, and equally absent from good children’s homes and foster care. It is about the regime and the care, not the type of care on offer.
Harry Phibbs goes on to say “Wherever possible it should be avoided. Children are much better off in the family setting of foster carers and much better still with the permanent loving home that adoption offers.” This is apparently a "widely accepted" wisdom. No, it isn’t. The author might refer to research at this juncture.
For the record and the author it seems, different children have different needs and not all want to live or would be better off living in foster care or being adopted. Children in care, like other children, have feelings, wishes, and families. Some have had very bad experiences in family settings and are unable or unwilling to live in a family placement at particular stages of their lives. They want and often benefit from, caring and positive residential care. This is where asking those in care about their views might be helpful instead of telling them what is good for them! Phibbs might also pause for a moment and consider that many children are placed in residential care following multiple breakdowns of previous foster placements or because they have proved too challenging for a foster placement.
Our author continues. “For any child to be kept in a children’s home unnecessarily is a scandal. Of the 6,000 there are 200 in “secure units” so that is understandable that they would not be deemed suitable for foster carers to cope with. Yet, on the other hand, many of 6,000 are able bodied and in mainstream schools. This survey found that 41 per cent were in mainstream schools or FE colleges.” It would of course be a scandal for any child to be kept in a children’s home, or foster care, unnecessarily. They are there because they are placed there to meet their assessed needs. Otherwise they would be at home or living somewhere else.
Apparently the 200 children placed in secure units would not be ‘suitable’ for foster care. Is he saying that children in secure units are ‘bad’ and ‘bad’ children don’t get placed in foster care? This simply isn't true.
He makes reference to "able bodied children" which is confusing and could be perceived of as discrimination but we'll leave that for you to decide.
Also, why is not acceptable for young people in children’s homes to attend mainstream school or FE college? Where on earth should they go? Does the author want them to remain within the walls of the ‘institution’ and not mix with other people? A better question for me would be why only 41%? Why not more?
It is frankly astonishing that the author should think that a child in a children’s home would be more likely to ends up in a PRU as a consequence. Has he not seen the latest Ofsted judgements of children’s homes nationally that show a significant majority of children’s homes being judged good or better on all the indicators as opposed to a small minority being found to be inadequate. We are concerned that Phibbs has not taken any time to read the facts, the research and the evidence and then published an article as if it is the 'truth'. It is an article of his opinion. No more or no less.
The debate about closing all residential homes has been around for a long time. Those of us who have been around a while have seen them open and then close only to see them open again. Young people need choice and appropriate support as do foster carers when a placement breaks down. Children’s homes are part of the spectrum of choice and a resource that social workers are able to use to meet the needs of children.
The author cites Leicestershire County Council.
“By placing more children with families rather than in children’s homes, being more cost-effective with care placements and re-shaping services, we’re proposing to reduce the budgets for children in care and safeguarding.”
I’ll bet Leicestershire County Council signed the Care Leavers’ Charter to provide the best care for their children. Yet in the statement, they clearly intend to put fiscal concerns above the best interests of the child. What is the Charter worth, I ask?
This ill-informed and ill researched article has done nothing to further the cause of good child care based upon the needs of the child and we're certain that the Conservative party disassociate themselves from it.