The Children’s Commissioner’s office strongly refutes criticisms made in a Guardian article today:
The Children’s Commissioner has spent the last 30 years working in the most disadvantaged areas improving children’s outcomes. She is wholly focused on continuing to advocate for vulnerable children, especially those in or involved with the care system. She and her office feel a personal responsibility to their safety and wellbeing.
We have directly supported more than 1,000 children through our Help at Hand advice service, including unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. The Commissioner has called for the funds to expand this service so that she can help many more young people in acute need.
We have made more than 100 visits to settings accommodating children, often at weekends and unannounced so that we hear from the children that no-one else is listening to – from Young Offenders Institutes and mental health inpatient units to children’s homes and hotels run by the Home Office. The Commissioner has raised her concerns about the children living in these hotels with the Home Secretary on multiple occasions.
It is one of the Commissioner’s driving principles that children should remain in care until at least 18. She is frequently and consistently vocal on this point, including most recently in her public response to the Government’s Children’s Social Care Strategy. She has been clear that the strategy lacks ambition and urgency for some particularly vulnerable groups, including unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, those in the youth justice system and those living in institutions.
In the past year alone, the Commissioner has:
- Directed her independent advocacy service ‘Help at Hand’ to visit many unaccompanied children who are housed in hotels run by the Home Office, raising her concerns about the long delays that children are facing while awaiting transfer to longer term placements.
- Written to the Home Secretary twice (most recently last week – see letter here) to raise these concerns, and is working with officials at the Home Office and the Department for Education to ensure these are addressed.
- Raised these concerns during a hearing at the Joint Committee on Human Rights, on January 18th.
- Published her response to the Government’s consultation on the regulations and guidance for supported accommodation where she was clear that all children should be in familial environments that can provide them with care until they are at least 18 and that every child should be living in homes that can legally provide them with care.
- Published her vision for the children’s social care system to shape the direction of the Government’s reform strategy and a plan for how she believes we should be reforming children’s homes.
- Published her Vision for Care Leavers during Care Leavers Week.
- Created and published a resource developed with Kinship Carers Liverpool to raise awareness about kinship care during National Kinship Week.
- Published a report on the results of a collaboration with Coram, including findings from the children in care I heard from in The Big Ask and Coram’s Your Life, Your Care survey.
- Produced research on how sibling relationships can be strengthened and maintained within the care system – this has helped to influence the content of the Government’s care strategy.
- Been an instrumental part of the Government’s National Implementation Board for the care strategy, providing robust challenge and reflections to shape its direction.
- Launched my care experienced advisory board, which is now receiving applications from young people who have been in care.
- Advised on how businesses and employers can support young people who have left or are leaving care with better employment and skills opportunities, through membership of the John Lewis Partnership’s advisory board Building Happier Futures.