Barnardo’s Respond To Green Paper

Barnardo’s welcomes the Government’s much anticipated Green Paper, Care Matters: Transforming the lives of children and young people in care. Barnardo’s is particularly pleased that this Green Paper – for the first time – brings together all aspects of life in care, from the prevention of children being taken into care, better support for education and improved provision for care leavers.

Chief Executive, Martin Narey, said: “Children in care either have no parents or parents who either will not or cannot look after them adequately. That is disadvantage enough. But when the state takes over as parent we fail them miserably, almost ensuring that a disadvantaged childhood will be followed by an adult life of poverty, disadvantage and, all too often, imprisonment.

“So we very much welcome this Green Paper with its acknowledgement that, despite significant investment, we are failing these children and need nothing short of a revolution in their care with a particularly pressing need to transform their educational prospects. The challenge now is to translate the admirable intent behind the Green Paper into practical reality. Barnardo’s stands ready to contribute to that process.”

While welcoming the Green Paper however, Barnardo’s has concerns that we cannot ignore the following issues:

Residential care:
We would like the Government to look in more detail at the use of residential care as a positive option for some children and young people. We believe this option would be particularly appropriate for some of the 40 per cent of children and young people who come into care aged 10 to 15 years and are likely to have links with their own family, and who do not want or are not able to respond to a substitute family. The fact that residential care has often been done badly does not mean it cannot be done well. Some fresh and imaginative thinking is required here.

Barnardo’s welcomes the proposals for a new qualifications framework for residential staff, but remains concerned that it may not be sufficient to address the issue of consistently being able to recruit and retain the high quality and skilled people needed to provide the stability and professional support to meet the needs of vulnerable children.

Boarding schools:
Boarding school may be an appropriate option for a small number of particularly challenging children in care. Boarding school can sometimes make long term fostering – because it may be for 20 weeks of the year rather than 52 – a much more achievable outcome.

Leaving care:
The proposal for pilots to enable young people to stay in foster care until they are 21 is a very welcome step in ensuring that young people do not have to live unsupported at too young an age, but we believe that all children in care should have this option – those in residential as well as foster care.

Barnardo’s is pleased to see that the Government recognises the need for further work in specific areas. We look forward to contributing to the four working groups that are being established to further investigate:
– The care population – how we might better support families and reduce the numbers of children in care.
– Social care practices – issues around ensuring that those working with children in care are properly trained and supported to do the job.
– Placement reform – exploring all options to ensure a range and choice of suitable placements for children in care.
– Best practice in schools – researching what works best in supporting children in care in their education.

Martin Narey concludes: “At Barnardo’s, we know through our work with young people who have been in care the scale of the challenge to improve their lives. We now need urgently to work together to turn the big ideas into action. We shall do all we can to help the Government achieve its goal of transforming the lives of these children and young people.

“Children in care are the responsibility of all of us and in whatever we achieve for them the test must always be ‘would this be good enough for my own child’”.