Member News: TACT calls for new national care service for children, families and care experienced people
TACT – UK’s largest dedicated fostering charity, has today published a paper urging the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care (IRCSC) to recommend that the DfE establish a ground-breaking new national care service – the National Care Family (NCF), covering fostering, adoption, kinship, residential, foster, and secure care. The proposed service would also take over responsibility for children who return to their birth parents from care and the secure youth justice estate.
The creation of an exclusive dedicated body will mean that Local Authorities (LAs) will no longer hold parental or operational responsibility for children in public care.
In addition to the existing range of support given to children in the care system, the National Care Family would perform new and long needed duties such as supporting birth parents whose children return to them from care, and providing assistance for care experienced adults. Being care experienced would become a protected characteristic with an automatic entitlement to lifelong support.
What we currently do for children and young people in care, and care experienced people, is simply not good enough. It is true that many children are protected from harm by the care system, and for a significant number of children it is transformative. But it is also an inescapable fact that when children in care are compared with children in the general population, they tend to have significantly poorer outcomes in a number of areas, such as educational attainment, and mental and physical health.
Children and young people who grow up in care are up to four times more likely to suffer from poor health 30 years later than those who grew up with their parents. Care experienced people are estimated to represent between 24% and 27% of the adult prison population, despite being less than 5% of the overall population. It is time that we took drastic action to change the narrative and tackle the negative outcomes for too many care experienced people.
Andy Elvin, TACT CEO, said: “All children in care, or in families created through social services’ intervention, require a Service that is dedicated to them and their families. LAs will never be able to prioritise this group lifelong. If we merely try to re-purpose the current systems/structures, we will simply get more of what we already have. The solution has to be a wholly different place, not a reformulation of what we currently have.”
TACT’s paper provides a vision for the new Service. The detailed design and creation of such a Service should be shaped by those experts by experience who can best inform this process, and those within the current system who accept and embrace the need for radical change. The new Service must be co-designed and co-produced by those whose lives it aims to transform.
Click on this link to access Towards a National Care Family
For all media enquiries, interviews, images and information please contact the TACT Communications Team via email@example.com or telephone: 07793580418#
Member News: Action for Children worker speaks out: “Working here, you see how resilient children can be”
Action for Children worker Caryl Dyer takes you behind the scenes of our latest campaign, Star in Every Child, sharing the true stories behind what you see on screen
When Caryl Dyer, an Action for Children service coordinator in south Wales, got a call asking her to star in the charity’s latest awareness-raising film, she leapt at the chance.
“This campaign is all about children reaching their potential, regardless of who they are,” explains Caryl. “I love the meaning behind that. It’s the belief that’s kept me going for the past 13 years and why I was excited to be involved in the film.”
A passion for helping children
After initially joining Action for Children on a service for children with autism in Cardiff, Caryl’s held a diverse variety of roles. She’s worked directly with families in crisis, provided short breaks for young carers, in residential services, after-school clubs and play schemes. She’s now working in mental health for children and young people, an area she’s passionate about.
“Every role was extremely rewarding in its own way,” reflects Caryl. “Because in each of them, you're supporting vulnerable young people to thrive. I think the common thing among all of them is that you leave at the end of the day knowing that you've done your best by a young person, which I think is pretty special.”
Helping children’s stars shine
In our new ‘Star in Every Child’ campaign film, Caryl gets to share the beliefs that drive her – and Action for Children staff and supporters across the country. That no child should go hungry, without love or a safe and stable home.
“Unfortunately, there are lots of things that can stop a child’s star from shining,” says Caryl, “Things like domestic abuse, substance abuse, poverty, or poor parental mental health and wellbeing. Action for Children has lots of services across the UK that can help families overcome these things and help their children’s stars to shine.”
Now, Action for Children is asking the public to help us do more, by helping us provide the things that can help a vulnerable child have a safe and happy childhood. Simple things, like a warm, nutritious meal or a support worker who will be there to listen, support and help keep them safe.
The reality beyond the screen
Caryl explains that the campaign reflects the reality of what she and other Action for Children workers see every day on the job:
“In the film you see children that maybe do not have access to a healthy meal, or decent shoes to wear to school. Unfortunately, that is the reality of what we come across regularly working for Action for Children.
“It’s extremely disheartening to know that young people are facing such challenges. But I’m hoping that with the public’s support, we can reach more of them. It would mean the world, and make a big difference”
Real life stories of impact
Recalling one of her proudest moments, Caryl says:
“I’ll never forget one young boy - two brothers actually. Unfortunately, they'd lost their dad at a younger age. The surviving parent was struggling with bereavement at the time and went into ‘survival mode’. Unfortunately, it turned into substance misuse and alcoholism.
“They were barely getting by. During that time, it was just a very difficult, challenging family situation for all involved. The children were displaying quite challenging behaviour trying to deal with all of that, they weren’t getting on with school and so on.
“It was my role to come in to support this family because it was all coming crashing down. It was a very long and challenging piece of work, but we supported them and we prevented the boys from having to go into care. That was fantastic.
“When we first went in, the situation was quite severe – it was really harrowing. But after working with them, they became resilient young boys, they were at school, they attended every day. At the end of the day, they had a supportive network around them and that’s so important.”
“It’s extremely disheartening to know that young people are facing such challenges. But I’m hoping that with the public’s support, we can reach more of them. It would mean the world, and make a big difference”
With the right support, any child can shine
Caryl’s own childhood was a happy one, in which she felt lucky to have a loving home despite financial adversity.
“We weren't from a wealthy background. I was raised by hard working parents, and we lived from month to month. But I felt very fortunate that I was surrounded by a lot of love, a lot of positive relationships.
“That's what makes me passionate about this cause. That it doesn't matter what your background is, you can still shine, and you can still make your own way. Sometimes small things, like having somebody there for you, is all that matters.”
How you can help
When a child has the safe and happy childhood they deserve, their star shines brightly. But too many children in the UK right now don’t have the chance to shine. Their childhoods are overshadowed by abuse and neglect, poverty, and poor mental health. But you can change this.
There's a star in every child. Let it shine.
By Ali Gunn, Communications and Campaigns Manager
In June, the Independent Children's Social Care Review published it's first report, the Case for Change. Together Trust has contributed to the Care Review in a number of ways:
We welcome the opportunity to respond to the Case for Change. Rather than answer every question posed we have given feedback where we have experience and knowledge as a charity working in children's social care. Read our full response.
The purpose of children’s social care
We believe the the Children’s Act 1989 is very clear on the purpose of children's social care but we call for the full implementation of the UNCRC in England to ensure children’s rights are respected and upheld.
We welcomed the Review’s acknowledgement of the power of strong community networks but believe there needs to be significant investment in a national campaign to challenge stigma.
The Case for Change does not go far enough to forensically investigate the impact of austerity cuts on children’s social care budgets or the chronic underfunding of community-based services. Departments across government must have the shared resource and collective accountability to help families to thrive.
Keeping families together
The Case for Change fails to recognise that good residential care practice supports families, rather than break them. Wrap around and holistic offers of short breaks, therapeutic support and community outreach services for children and families experiencing potential family breakdowns, neglect and family dysfunction would undoubtably help avoid unnecessary care episodes.
We want to see children in residential care have the same rights as children in foster care. We fully support the Every Child Leaving Care Matters campaign, and we would like to see staying close options extended to the age of 25.
The Case for Change has failed to consider the integration with adult social care. If it does not, there is a considerable risk that disabled children and their families will experience challenging transitions.
We are incredibly disappointed and disheartened by the Case for Change’s stance on unregulated accommodation. It fails to recognise the implications of formalising a two-tier care system.
Care that is good enough for all our children
We welcomed the Review’s recognition that children’s social care does not match up with family life in Britain today, this mirrors our own research.
Good quality care needs to have the young person at the centre with agencies and professionals working to uphold their rights, meet their needs and champion their ambitions.
The Review misses the mark on strengthening and supporting residential care support workers. We need to enhance the profile and standing of those roles to support the recruitment and retention of a sustainable workforce for our children.
Right homes in the right places
Children need to be part of their own communities unless it is not safe for them. Local authorities should have the resources to be responsive and take a place-based approach to end profit-making in children’s social care.
Read our full response
Young people and children at St Christopher’s have shared their thoughts with the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care in England.
The report, titled “It is different living in the system than working in the system”, is taken from a quote from a young person. We felt this was an insightful summary of how professionals can forget about children and young people’s lived experience.
Young people from children’s homes, semi-independent homes and foster homes, as well as care leavers who formerly lived at St Christopher’s, contributed their views. The suggestions are from UK nationals and young people seeking asylum in the UK, representing a range of experiences of care.
Based on their feedback, and additional context provided by St Christopher’s foster carers and staff, the report was arranged into eight key themes. Young people shared what worked well, what did not work so well, and the changes they want to see in the care system.
“I had a social worker but we never heard from her, now I have a new one and it’s getting confusing.”
“[I like] having somewhere warm and safe to live and I have a bed. I don’t always agree with the system.”
“You should get help for mental health because if you don’t it will get bigger and bigger and one day you just explode.”
“More trust and more help to people who have more needs and who don’t get to have social workers who are respectful.”
” I feel like everyone should have the option of their leaving care age being extended to 25.”
“What people who support children and young people do is so important and needs to be more skilled.”
Young people seeking asylum
“It would help if there was someone around every week to give advice and talk to people in an accessible way.”
Children in care are still children
“More family contact, go out more, go out on your own, fizzy drinks and change of social worker.”
We hope that this feedback helps the Care Review to reflect on the issues that are most important to young people and consider how care can become child-centred across the board.
Thank you to the young people, staff and foster carers who helped to make this report! Read St Christopher’s Care Review submission today.
Paul and Tracey, long term foster carers for ALL4U, organised a weekend full of fun and activities for their fellow carers and young people. They welcomed some families for the weekend, whilst others came along for day trips.
Once all the tents were pitched, everyone was ready for fish and chips and an evening round the camp fire.
On Saturday morning everyone participated in activities at the campsite and the afternoon was filled with walks and games. In the evening they had a BBQ with Del and Dwyan taking up chef duties.
Thanks to Ripley's Garden Centre and Julie and Cliff for sorting the cakes!
On Sunday they visited a local castle and did some sight seeing.
One carer said, “Thanks for such a great weekend, we are home and have happy, exhausted children but they absolutely loved it. Thanks to Paul and Tracey you guys have worked your socks off xxx big hugs to you all xxx”
For the eagle-eyed among you, you may have noticed that our brand is looking quite different to the pink and purple we’ve been sporting for the last 22 years.
Over the last couple of years we have been doing lots of work on who we are as an organisation, what we aspire to be and mean to people and what we’re continuing to work towards. Basically, we were ‘coming of age’ and now we are grown!
We’re really excited to be revealing a completely fresh look and a brand new website too. We believe it takes a community to raise a child and that every young person has the right to a bright future. We want to do things a little bit differently in fostering and be brave enough to challenge the status quo when we don’t agree.
We didn’t feel like our old brand truly portrayed those beliefs, so we set off on a voyage and have now arrived at a more grown up, modern and positive kind of place.
We worked, largely, off this model where children and young people are at the centre and we provide a stable platform, along with foster families, to give them their best chance at a bright future.
Our motif was designed directly from this premise and it also acts as a play on the faces from our old logo.
This design also pulls together our two strands of work - Community Foster Care and Community Family Care.
There are hundreds of Independent Fostering Agencies in the UK and only a handful of these are registered as not for profit charities. We wanted to stand out from the crowd, as we believe profit should never be put above children, and we really feel that this brand work will help us succeed in that.
Every action Community Foster Care takes is with the best interests of children and young people in care at heart. We hope that with this exciting new brand, we will succeed in attracting more fantastic foster carers to join us on our journey, to provide more stable, loving and understanding homes for children and young people within the areas we operate.
Our vision is a world where all children and young people grow up in families rich in the essential ingredients required for them to realise their ambitions and dreams - if you would like to be a part of that, then please do get in touch.
Barnardo's has issued a statement about the Health and Care Bill having its second reading in the House of Commons.
Rukshana Kapasi, Barnardo’s Director of Health, said:
"Children living in England’s most deprived communities face poorer health outcomes than their wealthier peers. So the Health and Care Bill is a unique and timely opportunity to tackle health inequalities for children and young people and improve integration of health and social care services for all.
"However, as drafted, the Bill primarily considers health and social care integration from the perspective of adult services. New integrated care systems must also prioritise infants, children and young people’s health. Barnardo’s is calling for the Bill to undergo a Child Impact Assessment to ensure it can deliver the joined up, holistic care and support services so many of our children desperately need.
"Barnardo’s is also calling for the Bill to include a duty to guarantee representation of voluntary and community sector organisations on integrated care partnerships, to share their expertise with NHS and local authority representatives.
"We also want a Better Care Fund to facilitate the integration of health and child social care services.
"These changes would help improve joint working between health and social care bodies, including charities, incentivise innovation, and achieve earlier intervention – before children reach crisis point. Ultimately, we believe they will deliver better outcomes for children."
Member News: TACT - ‘I became a foster carer at 22 – being young makes it easier for children to relate to us'
Fostering charity Tact reports seeing a three-fold rise in millennials applying to become foster carers in 2020
We tend to think of foster carers as older people, who likely already have grown up children – and indeed the majority (65 per cent) in England are over the age of 50.
But a wave of people in their twenties and thirties are choosing to foster youngsters.
Tact, the UK’s largest fostering charity, reports that they have seen a three-fold rise in millennials applying to become foster carers in 2020.
It’s hoped the trend may help alleviate the foster carer shortage – a child comes in to care every 20 minutes in the UK and there are more than 8,500 carers desperately needed nationwide to meet this demand.
Family breakdowns have increased the need for foster carers by nearly a third during the Covid pandemic, charity Barnardo’s has warned.
Bryleigh Flack, 23, has been fostering a teenage girl for four months with her partner Grace Pascall, 24. Bryleigh grew up in a household with looked-after children – her mother and a very good family friend have taken in around 250 youngsters. Grace got a taste of fostering living at Bryleigh’s mother’s for a year and when they moved into their own place last year, they were keen to do it themselves.
“I’ve been really involved in it my whole life and I was a back-up carer for the children,” said Bryleigh. “When I got my own place it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s no screaming kids around’. It felt strange.”
Bryleigh believes her and Grace’s youth is an advantage. “I think because we’re young it’s a lot easier for children to relate to us. I think they feel at home quite quickly. We have boundaries and discipline and we also remember what it was like to be 13.”
Bryleigh says people have been surprised at her decision to become a foster carer at just 22. “I think a lot of people are like, ‘Oh, my God, why would you do that so young’,” she said. “I can’t be out partying all night but I’m not bothered. I don’t feel like I’m missing out.”
Bryleigh says people have been surprised at her decision to become a foster carer at just 22. “I think a lot of people are like, ‘Oh, my God, why would you do that so young’.” But she said she doesn’t feel like she’s missing out. “When you grow up around fostering, it becomes part of your life, your identity and your future.”
Instead she focusses on the rewards. “Many children require a lot of care and attention to work through past traumas. And that’s the most rewarding job you could ever have. If you can show a child routine and stability, their behaviors can shift so quickly.
“It’s so rewarding to see them feeling safe. Even little things like them going to get something out the fridge without asking you, then you know they feel at home.”
‘Some don’t want to accept love’
But of course things may not run so smoothly. Many foster children exhibit behavioral issues.
Bryleigh, who lives in south London, said youngsters placed with her family have pulled doors off hinges, thrown objects and caused damage, and run away.
“They will push your boundaries to see how much you’re devoted to them, because all they know is loss,” she said. “When they come to you, they are expecting the worst, to leave, to not be permanent and for you to give up – because they’ve had so many temporary people in their life. As children they have been through more than most adults have ever been through.
“They may go against simple things that you’re asking them to do, because they’ve never had structure and routine before. That might be bedtime and mobile phone times. Lots of these kids have been able to do what they want for many years. You definitely pick your battles.
“A lot of children haven’t been given basic level of care, like having been taught self hygiene, so that’s your role. But also, many have been fending for themselves since being toddlers and getting themselves to school from a young age. So it’s important to not micromanage the children either because all of a sudden, they come to you and you’re trying to tell them how to do things.
“It’s about gaining their trust and working with them and showing them that you’re resilient. You can’t take things personally and you can’t give up.”
Bryleigh says some children have their defences up while others attach too quickly. “Some don’t want to accept love, affection and praise because they’ve never experienced that and it’s like an alien thing to them.
“Then you have children on the other spectrum who are really affectionate, but in the wrong ways – through no fault of their own – which makes them vulnerable to sexual exploitation. So again, because they’ve never had love, they crave it and seek it in the wrong places. Some are attention seeking. You are sort of faced with so many different behaviours that are unique to each child.”
Being a foster family brings a “different dynamic”, says Bryleigh. “Although the children are part of your family, the way you do things can be really different. You have to be really mindful of your ways of handling things. For instance, if you have a child who has grown up with parents who have abused alcohol or drugs, having a family gathering or party where people are consuming alcohol might be triggering for them. So you have to really take into consideration their past traumas in every single situation and be sensitive to that.”
Bryleigh says she got a lot of support through charity The Fostering Network and her local authority. “Meeting up with other foster carers has been a godsend,” she said.
Fostering ‘is life changing’
Bryleigh said her placement has “never been able to be a child”, something you wants to allow her the space to be.
Lockdown has presented challenges, but she and Grace have adapted and their foster child is settling in well.
“She’s settled in a short space of time and really feels at home, it’s great to see her doing well at school and getting involved in out of school activities.
“It’s been strange during lockdown with the world shut down when it’s been difficult to keep children entertained. But it made us realise we don’t always have to go out and spend money. It’s brought us back down to basics.
“We’ve been baking and going for walks and done some DIY on the house and done a few treasure hunts. We got a dog in lockdown, which helped teach our young one a bit of routine and responsibility.
“We went to an Airbnb on a farm and had a family holiday to the Cotswolds during Easter. She just was so receptive and open to try new things and it’s a great feeling to be able to give them opportunities that they haven’t had before.
“I hope this is a long-term placement and I want her to be able to look back and think that they really set me up to to be where I am. I’ll do anything to be able to help young people placed with us to be successful in life because they deserve that.”
Bryleigh urged any young person considering fostering to not feel like their age is a barrier. “I think a lot of people don’t realise that they can foster from 21. Obviously, it is a big commitment. And it is life changing. If you’re prepared for that, then go for it.”
TACT – the UK’s leading fostering charity, has joined cross-sector organisations, business leaders, unions and young people in urging the Government to reconsider its pandemic recovery measures for children and young people, asking them to urgently boost investment.
In two separate letters to the Prime Minister, coordinated by Fair Education Alliance and the National Children’s Bureau, and signed by over 240 leaders from across business, education and the charity sectors, campaigners have again urged the Government to invest in their stated intention of levelling up and show real ambition for the recovery for children and young people.
While researchers estimate that £13.5bn is needed to help children recover from a year of disruption, isolation and anxiety, the Chancellor has committed to spend only one tenth of this amount.
TACT CEO said:” “TACT is concerned to see that the Government’s much vaunted commitment to levelling up seems to have abruptly levelled off”.
The campaign insists the pandemic has deepened the existing crisis in funding for the education of disadvantaged children. Alongside extra money for schools to spend on staff development and interventions for pupils, a wider investment in measures to address the impact of Covid-19 on children and young people, such as reversing rising child poverty, reducing waiting times for mental health help for children and young people, and investing in the services that protect children from abuse and neglect, is urgently needed.
TACT is pleased to be among the experts calling for the Government to set out a new and ambitious vision of childhood and education to support children, young people and their families to recover from the impact of COVID-19, with #ChildrenAtTheHeart.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan has been made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen's Birthday Honours for services to young people and to education.
“I’m delighted and incredibly humbled to receive this Honour.
“Growing up in inner city Birmingham in the 1960s and 70s, with Kashmiri immigrant parents who couldn’t read or write in any language, I never dreamt this would be possible for someone like me.
“At Barnardo’s we passionately believe that incredible things can happen when you believe in children, whatever their background. My family didn’t have much when I was growing up, but they gave me the love, care and hope that set me on the path to where I am today.
“As Chief Executive of the UK’s leading children’s charity, it is my mission to help deliver that love, care and hope to the vulnerable children and young people across the UK who need it most. This Honour is a testament to the work of this incredible charity, and to every colleague, volunteer and supporter who goes above and beyond, every single day to make sure children and families can achieve the positive future they deserve.”
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