“We will take time to listen to you, respect, and strive to understand your point of view. We will place your needs, thoughts and feelings at the heart of all decisions about you, negotiate with you, and show how we have taken these into account”
It will come as no surprise that we at ECLCM agree with the Minister that these low levels of achievement are not good enough for care leavers. We also support the Charter and all the aspirations it contains.
Clearly, given this confident fanfare at ministerial level, might care leavers now expect that their needs will be addressed by the Charter?
Sorry Minister, this is where we part company. ECLCM do not share your optimism. We DON’T see the Care Leavers’ Charter in its present form as a safeguard for children leaving care. It cannot work unless there is legislation requiring government and local authorities to ensure that all young people leaving care receive the support they need at least until they are 21. This must include young care leavers being allowed to remain in their placement when it is in their interests, agreed by the provider and what they wish to do – in fact, the same rights bestowed by the Children and Families Act 2014 on children leaving foster care.
We have repeatedly asked, but so far, nobody has been able or prepared to explain to us what the differences are between children in children’s homes and children in foster care. We are willing to wager if we placed a mixed group of kids from foster care and children’s homes in a line, the minister and his advisors would not be able to identify which children were which. Similarly, nobody has explained to us what the differences are in the needs of young people leaving foster care and residential care. They can’t of course … because there aren’t any.
The government places a great deal of faith in the Charter to meet the needs of care leavers. The cynical amongst us might believe that this is because it shifts the focus on the local authorities to support care leavers without giving them any increase in government funding. However, it isn’t working. We see reports in the social work press of local authorities seeking to save money by persuading older children to leave care, or by moving the young people to cheaper 'supported accommodation' rather than keep them in children's homes until they turn 18. The councils cited in those reports were signatories to the Charter, and we suspect they are not alone.
ECLCM suggest to the minister that the Charter be: