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Children's social care

Catch22 responds to call for evidence on “Reforms to unregulated provision for children in care and care leavers”

The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, taken from across the River Thames. Overlaid is text that reads: "Consultation Response".

In May 2020, the Department for Education called for evidence that examines proposals on appropriateness of placements in independent and semi-independent provision for children in care and care leavers, and system checks and balances.

Children in care and care leavers are some of the most vulnerable children and young people in society. Every child and young person should have access to a stable and secure placement in accommodation that can meet their needs and, most importantly, keep them safe. We need to work together to make this happen and deliver the support these vulnerable children and young people deserve.

The number of children in care aged 16 or 17 and placed in unregulated settings has increased from 2,900 in 2009 to 6,100 in 2019. We want to ensure these placements are good quality. It is unacceptable for any child or young person’s placement to not meet their needs and/or keep them safe, for any amount of time.

Core recommendations

Catch22 believes that good public services are built around three principles:

  • being more human (building relationships),
  • unlocking social and financial capacity, and
  • developing alternative or local governance models.

In the main, the system continues to disadvantage young people as they make their transition from care to adulthood. The evidence shows that outcomes can remain poor for many young people who have experience of the care system. Such outcomes (poor health, employment and housing) cost the taxpayer significant resource as well as detrimentally impacting on communities and individuals.

Nearly 10 years ago, Eileen Munro undertook her review of child protection. She called for a more child-centred system then, but a decade on we are still working with overly transactional services and children who are passed from professional to professional, with boxes ticked and paperwork filed. Now is an important opportunity to take stock and refocus priorities on what really makes a difference to children’s lives: relationships. Experience teaches us that strong and meaningful relationships – built around trust and empathy, which are honest and provide boundaries where necessary – are the most important factor in transforming the lives of children and young people.

This consultation could go some way to addressing this. However, we strongly believe that it will not have the depth of impact that it might without a wider cross-government review of the care system.

Catch22 worked with the National Leaving Care Benchmarking Forum (NLCBF) and The Young People’s Benchmarking Forum (YPBMF) to collect the views of frontline local authority leaving care teams as well as young care leavers to inform its response.