Children in care

Supporting the wellbeing and aspirations of children in care, and supporting care leavers to achieve their full potential

The Children’s Commissioner has a particular responsibility to children in the care system. Our Help at Hand service responded to some 1,200 enquiries last year. We also run a digital platform, IMO, which serves as a meeting point for children in the care system and care leavers, offering opportunities and gifts to support their wellbeing but more importantly, a way for them to make themselves heard.

We will continue to produce the Stability Index in 2019-20, including for the first time showing changes in social worker in all local authorities and focusing new analysis on the schools attended by children in care system; exploring why these children are less likely than others to attend good or outstanding schools

Help at Hand

Our Help at Hand advice and assistance service for children in care and the very vulnerable continues to grow, responding to over 1,200 enquiries last year. Among the typical cases we resolved were helping a care leaver whose local authority had failed to get her immigration status established/recorded to remain at university; getting proper education for a young disabled boy at home; and keeping two teenage sisters with the foster family they loved.

Children in the care system are still too often threatened with financially-driven moves, or made the victims of poor planning and decision-making. We are here to help put it right. We have helped homeless teenagers, excluded children, and young offenders leaving secure units with nowhere to go. Both children and the professionals trying to help them contact us for help, and we intervene with local authorities or other services to get them the support they need. The cases that come to us inform the Children’s Commissioner’s wider priorities and help sharpen the focus of our policy and evidence work.

We will continue to help the most vulnerable children, ensuring that we use our expertise and influence to make a real difference for those in the most urgent and difficult situations.

Stability index

Our stability index tells the story of how too many children in the care system end up ‘pinged’ between placement and placement, social worker and social worker, school and school . This year we have given detailed reports to 78 local areas to help them understand how well they are doing compared to other areas, and which groups of children they might need to focus on supporting more. We have also shared underlying data with a couple of local authorities so that they can identify and review the cases where children had a lot of instability, in order to provide better support in future.

We will continue to produce the Stability Index in 2019-20, including for the first time showing changes in social worker in all local authorities and focusing new analysis on the schools attended by children in care system;  exploring why these children are less likely than others to attend good or outstanding schools.

Digital hub

IMO went live as a digital platform in June 2018 and is supported by generous donations from, among others, the BBC, Google, Victoria & Albert Museum, Headspace, Birchbox and Tastecard, IMO serves as a meeting point for children in the care system and care leavers, offering opportunities and gifts to support their wellbeing but more importantly, a way for them to make themselves heard. It is our aim to raise society’s ambition for children in care, hence we want to make IMO a platform for great job, university and apprenticeship opportunities for care leavers. We have agreed with the Office for Students to collaborate to improve access to higher education for this group of teenagers over the next year, using IMO. All content on the site is created or curated by looked after children or care leavers, and includes blogs, vlogs, animations and podcasts. Regular user-led campaigns and competitions are run on the platform, including a writing competition sponsored by the AA with a first prize of 40 hours of driving lessons.