Whatever The Timpsons and Loughtons of this world have to say about progress for children in care, the reality is that not much has changed since light was first shed onto the dire conditions most children experiencing social care face, almost a decade ago now.
Jackie Long is social affairs editor over at Channel 4, and her recent blog on outcomes for children in care is a stark reminder that whilst adults seem to be talking about change, virtually nothing is happening on the ground. And no one is actually listening to our children.
Her post highlights several things ministers tend to forget whilst they’re busy patting themselves on the back for jobs seemingly well done. It costs more to see a child through the care system, than it does to send a child to Eton. Despite this, whilst children at Eton get the Rolls Royce of education and pastoral care, children in care most often face the prospect of illiteracy and physical, and emotional abuse. Here are some stats from Jackie’s piece:
- Almost one third of children in care leave school with no GCSEs at all.
- Only 6 per cent of care leavers go onto university – as opposed to 38 per cent of all young people.
- Almost 40 per cent of prisoners under 21 had been in care while they were growing up.
- children in care have a higher chance of developing mental health problems or ending up homeless.
All this we know, but we tend to forget amidst the clarion calls for reform and the loud trumpeting of more children taken into care, taken from ‘abhorrent monster parents’ to be placed in the arms of loving foster carers and residential staff.
But that’s bollocks, and we know it.
We can have as many voice of the child conferences and seminars as we like, but until we get staff on the ground to understand what it means to listen to children and to show them love and affection at the same time, these children will continue to go unseen and unheard.
Time and again we hear social workers saying they can’t show love and affection to children because it might cause emotional trauma once they’re moved on, but that is to suggest that children’s emotional development can be frozen in time once they land in care and reignited at a later date once they are ‘safely housed’ with foster carers or adoptive parents. The merits of that sentiment about safety too are questionable as children continue to be bounced around from carer to carer, let down by people who are either unable to cope with vulnerable children or are simply looking for a quick way to make cash (the debate raging around ‘salaries’ for foster carers is a big issue as well).
And all these things, over a period of time, contribute to a feeling of powerlessness and a fading voice, which with time, becomes so quiet, no one even notices it anymore.
You can catch Jackie on Twitter, for more on social affairs.
Many thanks to Maggie Tuttle for alerting us to Jackie’s blog post.