Today, the Education Committee produced its long awaited report “Into independence, not out of care: 16 plus care options”.
The Every Child Leaving Care Matters (ECLCM) team wish to thank the Committee for its work and express our agreement and appreciation of its findings. The ECLCM campaign is a group of people with no affiliations to any political party or organisation, who are not funded by or dependent upon any vested interests in the field of child care or social welfare, and who do not stand to gain from any particular initiative being recommended by Committee.
Back in January of this year, Ben Ashcroft representing ECLCM met Craig Whittaker, Conservative MP for Calder Valley and discussed how implementing ‘Staying Put’ might be introduced for young people leaving children’s homes. Craig organised an adjournment debate, and this led to an exchange of ideas and views with government representatives and the DfE.
ECLCM are motivated by one cause only – that ALL children leaving care should receive appropriate support to enable them to successfully make the transition to adult life. Where this involves their being allowed and supported to remain in the placement up until the age of 21, subject to their wishes and those of the provider, this must be an option. This option should be available at least until the age of 21 for all looked after children where ever they are placed.
ECLCM have campaigned for this objective since the Staying Put’ initiative was implemented for young people in foster care only and children in other placements, most particularly residential care, were excluded in December 2013. It has been and remains our consistent view that this is discrimination and poor practice.
Ben Ashcroft, said:
“We're delighted about the recommendations in the report, it's a good day for our team and a great day potentially for every child in or leaving care. Today should be seen as a celebration and a positive step forward. We hope that the Department of Education will make this into policy no matter what cost it is. You can't put a price on a life.”
ECLCM is delighted to note that the Committee has supported our view in full and is recommending to government that:
“Young people living in residential children’s homes should have the right to remain there beyond the age of 18, just as young people in foster now have the right to Stay Put until the age of 21. We recommend that the DfE extend Staying Put to residential children’s homes.”
Indeed, Committee go further:
“We are not convinced by the DfE’s argument that the quality of children’s homes must improve before young people are able to ‘stay put’. Many young people are settled and thriving in residential children’s homes. Forcing them to move at the age of 18 from a home judged ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted to unregulated, sometimes unsuitable, settings is not only illogical in policy terms, but potentially harmful to the individual in question.”
“We recognise the resource constraints faced by local authority children’s services departments. Nonetheless, the young people in question have already experienced troubled and disrupted childhoods and are far too important for their welfare not to be prioritised. Extending support for these vulnerable young people should be considered an investment, which will lead to better outcomes for the individuals in question and for society as a whole.”
ECLCM applaud and thank Committee for reaching these brave conclusions.
We at ECLCM also heartily concur with the Committees recommendation that the use of “Bed and Breakfast” accommodation (B&B) be forbidden for young people leaving care. ECLCM has always taken the view that a ban on the use of B&B accommodation for looked after young people should be implemented as soon as possible. We would suggest that DfE ban it now, and do not delay any longer.
ECLCM support the views expressed at the Committee hearings that pilots for implementing Staying Put in residential settings are unnecessary, expensive and time wasting. As Committee include in their report, the views of Jonathan Stanley, CEO of the ICHA:
“We do not need to have pilots; we can go forward with it now, on the basis that there are many children’s homes that are already “good”, and sustainably “good”, or better”.
As Committee noted:
“The ECLCM group pointed to Ofsted’s findings from inspections of 400 children’s homes, completed by June 2013:
• Overall effectiveness: 65% were good or outstanding; 7% were inadequate.
• Outcomes for young people: 67% were good or outstanding; 3% were inadequate.
• Quality of care: 74% were good or outstanding; 6% were inadequate.
• Safeguarding children and young people: 69% were good or outstanding; 6% were
The ECLCM team are delighted that, far from being a bunch of ‘radicals’ as one government spokesman described us, we are actually reflecting best practice and the views and needs of young care leavers. We feel vindicated that our objectives are supported by so many distinguished professionals, politicians, decision makers and the members of the Committee.
ECLCM consider these recommendations to be a positive and productive step forward. We hope that the DfE introduce them as policy soon. We call upon the government to listen to the views of the Committee and the experts and care leavers who contributed to the Committee’s work, and to accept and implement its recommendations without further delay. Care leavers have waited generations for this opportunity. Please don’t make them wait any longer.