Children and young people can enter the care system for a number of reasons. Research shows that two thirds have experienced severe neglect. These experiences can have a lasting impact. Yet, for too many children and young people their time in care doesn’t help them recover from these traumatic experiences.
It is something that we see all too often through our services. We all know this needs to change. Our report, Too Much Too Young, shows that something is going very wrong for the most vulnerable young people who have been in care. From talking to young people it was clear that ensuring good emotional wellbeing should be our starting point. Without it, practical support is not enough for the most vulnerable young people.
This is why the Alliance for Children in Care and Care Leavers is leading the call to make sure that there is a much clearer definition of what care should be trying to achieve. We want to see a principal aim that promotes psychological healing from past harm, building resilience and achieving well being.
We know that a clear aim is important but it won’t make a difference unless it is being clearly translated into how children and young people are being helped every day. That is why need to see robust assessment and measurement of children’s wellbeing and progress through their care experience so that we understand when children are doing well and when they need more support. A new framework would bring these measures together and mean that each are properly assessed and judged.
From working with looked after children and care leavers, we know that effective support is not bound by tight deadlines or cut off points. Continuing to provide care and support when young people leave care is important to make sure they are not expected to become independent sooner than their peers. This will help them to manage ongoing and additional challenges.
There is a growing consensus that the mental health and emotional wellbeing of children and young people in care is simply not being prioritised. We need to see government step up, take the lead and make clear what care is for.
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