Schools Pledge For Care Children
Councils would have a duty to place children in their care in the best local schools, under government plans. A Green Paper on children in care in England is expected to beef up the admissions rules and oblige schools to take the youngsters if told to do so.
Other ideas include allowing youngsters to stay in foster homes to the age of 21, not 18, and better training and revised fees for carers.
The government wants a radical shake-up of a system which fails many children.
Currently, it says, only 11% get five good GCSEs compared with a national average of 56%.
They are more likely to be jobless, become pregnant as teenagers, misuse drugs or go to prison.
The charity NCH says a fifth of homeless people are care leavers.
At present there are some 61,000 children in care in England, 69% of whom are fostered.
In addition to getting them into the best local schools, the government intends to give them free home-to-school transport and guarantee them “catch up” lessons.
It plans to appoint a head teacher in each area to be responsible for the children.
Ministers will take stock annually of the children’s progress.
And there will be a national centre of excellence to spread good practice.
Education Secretary Alan Johnson will, when he publishes the Green Paper, praise those who already devote their lives to helping children and young people in care – but say that despite their efforts, the outcomes for some children are still shocking and the situation cannot continue.
The chief executive of NCH, Clare Tickell, said: “The terrible inequality between children in care and others is shameful – and now we have the opportunity to put this right.
“Every child deserves the care, attention and chances in life that we give our own children and this must be reflected in the government’s reforms.”
NCH wants intensive work with families to prevent children going into care as well as measures to prevent mental health problems among those who are in care.
A National Voice, the campaigning organisation managed by care leavers, has called for better pay and training for social workers and foster carers.
Board member Jonny Hoyle, 21, said: “We hope that young people will be able to feel more empowered and involved in the design and delivery of the services that affect their lives.
“Young people in care often have strong opinions on the care they receive and want their voices to be heard.”
Meanwhile the chairman of the Local Government Association Children and Young People’s Board, Les Lawrence, said the government had to fix the shortage in social workers.
“We must create a culture of high expectations and effective care for these children,” Cllr Lawrence said.
“It is then the duty of social services and both local and national government to pick up the pieces and provide these children with the best opportunities possible.”
Fostering costs up to £50,000 per child, per year and the annual cost of residential care in children’s homes – where some 11% are placed – is, on average, £100,000 per child.