An article in the Staffordshire Sentinel gives a very telling impression of the way we increasingly seem to be looking at children in care. Titled Youngsters in care aged 16 and 17 are to be moved out of children’s homes to save £1.6 million in just two years it explains how children in Stoke-on-Trent are being moved from children’s homes and foster care into supported accommodation. The article explains the cumulative savings to be made from doing this.
There is however something missing. At no point does the article say that these moves are in the children’s interests or give any indication that they have been consulted with. These are not niceties, these are obligations under domestic and international law. These are vulnerable children, the majority will have experienced abuse or neglect before coming into care. We owe these children more than moving them around according to what is cheapest. Even if failing to mention these considerations was an oversight, it is indicative of where priorities seem to lie.
As the UK’s largest specialist charity provider of fostering and adoption services, TACT has increasingly seen decisions about where a child lives apparently based on financial motivation rather than putting their interests first. We are even seeing local authority contracts saying that placements shall be ended, however secure and beneficial to the child they might be, if they are not satisfied with an annual review of fees.
We understand that financial constraints in current times places increasing obligations on local authorities to find savings. However, children are not commodities. Their rights are not negotiable according to cost. As a society we are in danger of forgetting that our overriding consideration should always be to act in their interests.
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