Last week in Parliament, Peers and MPs attended a drop-in session organised by Emma to meet the Every Child Leaving Care Matters (ECLCM) team and sign their petition to stop discrimination against children in residential children’s homes and support all children and young people in care to 21 years of age.
This followed a question Emma raised on the subject in Education Questions on Monday. You can read Emma’s Question here:
On the 4th December, 2013, the government announced that children who were in foster care would be allowed and supported to remain with their foster carers until they were 21 years of age. There was much celebration amongst campaigners when the announcement was made. However, those celebrations did not extend to children and young people in children’s homes. Children in residential care were not included in this change even though the residential sector often cares for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged young people who may be unable, or indeed choose not to be fostered.
Since then, the ECLM team have campaigned to end the two tier system which they believe would create an underclass of children in care who have to leave care at 18. They were consulted by Sir Martin Narey in the course of his review into residential care and put forward proposals for children in residential care to remain in placement until 21 years old where suitable, stay in touch or stay close to the primary care staff they had grown to trust.
His report, ‘Residential Care in England’, published on Monday, urges the Government to commit to introducing Staying Close and recommends ECLCM should help officials in the Department for Education (DfE) to develop the reform including advising on the pilot schemes.
Ed Nixon, Chair of Every Child Leaving Care Matters said,
“We welcome the recommendations of Sir Martin Narey’s report and are delighted that he recommends that our experiences and those of thousands of care leavers are considered. His report recognises that it is vital that children don’t just feel abandoned as soon as they are 18 from the people they may have come to know and trust and his recommendation to implement Staying Close.
However, the recommendations are not strong enough. ECLM would prefer all care leavers to be able to ‘stay put’ in their placement as long as it is in their best interests and they choose to do so until they are 21, in parity with children leaving foster care. In circumstances where this is not possible, we support a variation of the ‘Staying Close’ principle. Care leavers need continuity of positive relationships, stability and safe accommodation and we believe this is best served by the same people and professional agencies who have offered the placement and should be part of the registered provision.’
In response to Sir Martin’s report the Department for Education has said it is committed to introducing ‘Staying Close’ following a series of pilots for the scheme. Sir Martin Narey recommended ECLM help officials in the DfE to develop the reform, including advising on the selection and management of the pilots.
“Looked after children whether they be in foster or residential placement deserve to be treated the same, it can’t be right that children in residential care are treated differently and given better support than those in foster placements. I was greatly disappointed to see that the Government’s recent ‘Putting Children First’ paper appears to be watering down sound proposals that advocate parity between foster and residential care and not offering the option for children in residential care to remain in placement until they are 21. I am proud to continue to work with the Every Child Leaving Care Matters team who have campaigned tirelessly on this issue and whilst I welcome news that children in residential care are a step closer to being offered the same rights as those in foster care I will keep pressure on the government until the system is truly fair for every child in or leaving care.”
You can find more details about the group by checking out their website ECLCM.org or on Twitter @rescareto21 or on Facebook.
You can sign their petition here