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Care experienced children urge authorities to back social care reforms

Location, safe placements and financial pressures are all issues outlined in an open letter to political party leaders that has been signed by children in care and care leavers.

In the run-up to the next General Election, a group of more than 70 children who have experience in the care sector have signed an open letter to the government warning that ‘far too many’ of the 84,000 children in care are ‘being let down by a care system that is not meeting their needs’.

a young boy holding a baby in a field

The letter, which was coordinated by Become – a national charity for children – adds there is ‘not enough safe, stable and suitable placements for children, with many forced to live far from their local areas and move multiple times a year.’

With this in mind, the letter goes on to detail that siblings in care are among the hardest hit as they’re often ‘forced to live apart’. This is echoed within the most recent statistics from the Children’s Commissioner for England, as it was found an estimated 37% of children, which equates to 20,000, are separated from a sibling when placed in care.

‘Decisions on where children live are being driven by financial pressures and what is available rather than by a child’s wishes and feelings, and what is in their best interests,’ the letter states. ‘Young people are made to leave care before they are ready, often on their18th birthday – and for many even younger.’

The letter goes on to say: ‘They face a care cliff of support, expected to become independent overnight without a safety net to fall back on, leaving a disproportionate number facing homelessness.’

In addition, young people within the letter have claimed the toxic care system has contributed towards disruption to education, poor mental health and loneliness. They are now calling on politicians to ensure whoever comes into power next, provides a more stable environment that benefits children.

Become have included the fact that a fifth of children in care currently live more than 20 miles from their family, friends and school due to such a shortage of placements. What’s more, an average of 157 children have to move placements per day and in 2023, 7,910 young care leavers were homeless or at risk of it.

Katherine Sacks-Jones, chief executive of Become, said: ‘Far too many young people tell us that the care system is not working for them – it is causing huge instability, disrupting their education, impacting their mental health, and leaving them feeling isolated.

‘With an election coming up we are calling on party leaders to listen to what care-experienced children and young people want and to commit to the reforms so urgently needed.

‘The next government must have higher aspirations for care-experienced children and young people and deliver meaningful change so that every child has the love, care and stability they need.’

Image: Holly Landkammer

In related news:

Landmark Young Carers Covenant launched to help millions of children

62% of care children have been moved away from their hometown in the last decade

Emily Whitehouse
Writer and journalist for Newstart Magazine, Social Care Today and Air Quality News.

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