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Help at Hand is the Children’s Commissioner’s advice and assistance service for children who are in care, leaving care, working with social services or living away from home. Children and their advocates can get in touch with Help at Hand via the freephone telephone line, website or email. 

As we look forward to 2024, we want to take a moment to reflect on all that Help at Hand did for children in 2023, which was another great year for the team.

Help at Hand received more than a thousand enquiries in 2023 and many of these relate to more than one child. This is a marked increase from 2022, when Help at Hand received 737 enquiries. This increase reflects the work done following the 2022 in depth review of the service.

Here is some of what the team has achieved this year:

Another big part of the Help at Hand focus this year has been continuing to give a voice to unaccompanied children seeking asylum, and children seeking asylum with their families.

We have maintained regular visits to unaccompanied children across home office hotels and reception centres. Dozens of children told us their frustrations about having to wait so long to be taken into care and to finally start attending education, Help at Hand advocated for these children, making representations to  Home Office officials and other decision makers.

Perhaps, the most common issue that has come up for Help at Hand this year has been children in care  who are out of school. The frequency of this issue being shared with us is likely tied into the Children’s Commissioner’s work on school attendance. This is an example of Help at Hand’s work on this issue

Lydia (identifying details have been changed) should have been in year 1 when her virtual school head (VSH) approached Help at Hand.  Lydia had suffered significant trauma before entering care and had learning needs. Her parent local authority could not find her a home that met her needs locally and so she was placed “out of area”. Her Virtual School Head told Help at Hand they had tried for several months to find a school in the area where Lydia had been moved to with no luck.

Help at Hand found there was an impasse between the Local Authority where Lydia lived and the Local Authority that was responsible for her care, and this appeared to be related to funding. The Children’s Commissioner wrote to both Directors of Children’s Services asking for them to join forces to ensure Lydia would have a school place. 

The Children’s Commissioner was reassured a school had been identified and a start date for attendance agreed. Help at Hand also raised the case with the Department for Education to highlight the issues raised in Lydia’s experience.

This is some of the feedback Help at Hand received in 2023:

Help at Hand look forward to hearing from and helping more children and care leavers this year.

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