The number of signatories to the “Every Child Leaving Care Matters” petition for equal aftercare support for all care leavers has now passed 4000 continues to rise.
We have come on a long way and learned much since we introduced the petition to gain this support following what we saw as a discriminatory step from government, so perhaps it is time to pause and reflect for a moment.
First of all, let’s be clear. Some have sought to misrepresent our objective, indeed one spokesman suggested we ‘resented’ the partial changes being introduced for fostered children. That is mischievous nonsense. Our objective is to gain equal aftercare support for all young people leaving care up to the age of 21, wherever they are placed.
We have never advocated raising the care leaving age. What we are campaigning for is for all young people leaving care to be treated equally.
We recognise that not all young people will need to remain in placement until 21 years old, of course. But there needs to be equality of support offered that is not dependent on whether a placement is foster care or residential care. All care leavers should be treated equally.
It has been suggested that to include young people from children’s homes in the changes would be ‘unaffordable’. We don’t accept that either. The issue is about allocation of resources to meet need. To suggest a change is unaffordable is a political statement based on the resources government are prepared to allocate.
We argue that the cost of not including young people from children’s homes in the change is far more expensive. What is the cost when supporting young care leavers in:
- the criminal justice system,
- the benefit system,
- the mental health system,
- in homelessness
Mr Gove suggested at the Education Committee that similar changes might be introduced for children’s homes in the future subject to unspecified conditions being met in an unspecified timescale. He made no firm commitment to change at all.
How many young people are we prepared to see suffer while we wait? The division of support is clear discrimination.
Mr Gove said the issues involved in including changes for children’s homes are ‘complex’. Indeed they are, but they not so complex we cannot address them. They have been complex for generations as government after government has avoided addressing them. The ‘Every Child Leaving Care Matters’ petitioners include care experienced people from every generation back to and including the 1950’s. Many of us have campaigned for better after care individually and in organisations for decades. We understand the complexities and are happy to discuss them.
We include a massive cross section of experienced care leavers, social workers, residential care providers, foster carers, academics and teachers. We have the support of some Directors of Children’s Services who clearly feel the same.
We are delighted to include leading charities amongst our supporters. These are:
- A National Voice
- The Care Leavers Association
- The Children's Society
We salute these colleagues. We have written to all the organisations that supported the ‘Staying Put’ initiative to seek their support. We still await some replies.
Our position is that we seek any initiative to improve after care support for young people leaving care. However, we do not accept that qualification for such care be based on placement at the point of discharge and not on need.
We call upon people who care about vulnerable children leaving care to sign our petition. We are happy to meet and to discuss the issues involved with ministers, and indeed wrote to Mr Timpson to seek a meeting before Christmas. There has been no reply to date.
We will not go away or be silenced until we have equality of rights to after care support for all care leavers.