Today, I was delighted to be a part of the ‘It’s Our Care Day of Action’ to hear directly from care experienced children and young people and to push for much needed reform to the care system.
As Children’s Commissioner I am dedicated to creating a care system that is centred around amplifying the voices of children and young people. Today was an important way to ensure that young peoples’ perspectives shape the reforms to the care system.
The Day of Action was organised by seven children’s charities including, the National Children’s Bureau, Action for Children, Become, Barnardo’s, Coram, The Children’s Society, and NSPCC. I am grateful to these charities for organising this day and inviting me to take part.
This morning, I had the opportunity to facilitate a conversation between four care-experienced young people, the Secretary of State for Education, and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. The young people clearly and articulately expressed their opinions on some of the biggest issues within the care system – from the need for more support for younger children and the vital importance of early help, to value of knowing their rights and what avenues of support are available for children in care and care leavers. I commend all these young people for sharing their views, it was an honour to hear them.
This afternoon, I also Chaired a roundtable with a panel of four care-experienced young people, the Minister for Children’s and Families and the Shadow Minister for Children and Early Years. This will be another valuable opportunity to hear from young people and for them to raise important points which mattered to them. Thank you to the young people who attended.
We are at a significant juncture with the chance to transform our care system and create lasting change. The publication of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care must be a crucial opportunity to take bold and decisive action to improve the lives of children and young people across the country. And it is critical that these reforms are integrated with other ambitious reform plans, such as those outlined in the consultation on the SEND system, the Schools White Paper, and the Health Bill.
In a report earlier this year I outlined my four ambitions for the care system. This was informed by the voices of children in care through the survey of nearly 6,000 children in care that I conducted last year through The Big Ask, the largest ever survey of children in England.
In response to The Big Ask one 15-year-old girl living in foster care that I spoke to said:
“young people should be able to achieve what they want when they grow up they need love, stability and time with a loving family.”
Urgent reform is needed to ensure that children in care can access appropriate mental health support. I think there needs to be more join up between the care system and care for children with mental health needs. The Review could have done more to set out how its overall aims apply specifically to disabled children. I am calling for a further focused piece of work from DfE and the DHSC on support for disabled children and their families.
Reviews are only the start; we need to commit to implementation if we are to see real change for children and young people. It is my mission to work with the government to push for reform to create a better system for children and young people.
We must now shift to a delivery phase to ensure that proposed reforms become a reality for children and young people. I welcome plans for a National Implementation Board, after calling for it, and look forward to continuing to champion the voices of the most vulnerable children and young people during this next phase.