£200 million is not enough

Last week, the government responded to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care. The Care Review has provided a once in a lifetime opportunity for a broken system to be fixed.
We have all heard the statistics before. Care leavers make up 25% of the homeless population, nearly 25% of the adult prison population, and 41% are not in employment, education or training. Shockingly, these numbers haven’t changed significantly over the past decade!
Roughly speaking, it costs over £50,000 a year to keep a young person in foster care and about £200,000 for a child to live in residential care for a year. For comparison, in 2022, Eton College’s annual fees were just below £45,000. Now, the point is not the actual cost, but the service received to the individual as well as society overall. How come that after spending this amount of money on a child’s care, this child is still less likely to have good grades, go to university, or get a well-paid job? Instead, this child is more likely to be exploited and become criminalised, to suffer poor mental health and substance abuse, and to even die prematurely. 
In its implementation strategy the government committed only £200 million to address urgent issues facing children and families over the next two years. This is simply not enough! Whilst stating that this will just lay the foundations for a whole system reform, a setting of direction, it is also clear that a lasting commitment is openly lacking. 
The complexity and level of disadvantage these young people face and coming out of care necessitate a complete reappraisal of how the state parents them. All of us who have been involved in the Care Review – via consultations, submission of evidence, round tables, and countless discussions – expect far more than sticking plaster solutions.
If there is to be real change, we must think and act long-term with an honest and ensured commitment that stretches across party lines and beyond political terms. We want to see a robust approach and an action plan to implement the changes required to stop children and young people from being failed repeatedly.
What we are doing for our own children should be what we are doing for those children in the care of the state. As a Corporate Parent and as a society, we must ask ourselves: Would this be good enough for my child?

What does the government’s response say about care leavers and employment?

The response embraces the Care Review’s demand to create 3,500 new, well-paid jobs and apprenticeships for care leavers every year by 2023. The government aims to achieve this by boosting the Care Leaver’s Covenant’s budget by 30% over the next two years and by increasing the apprenticeships bursary for care leavers from £1000 to £3000.

We believe that there is much more that can be done to increase the number of available quality job opportunities for care-experienced young people. We will continue to consult and work with Local Authority partners, government representatives and civil servants to promote realistic and effective solutions.

More information below:

How our peers responded:

  • Article 39: they fight for the rights of children living in state and privately-run institutions in England.
  • Become: the national charity for children in care and young care leavers.
  • Family Rights Group: they promote policies and practices that keep children safe within their family and strengthen the family and community networks of those children who cannot live at home.
  • Just for Kids Law: they work with and for young people to ensure their legal rights are respected and promoted, and their voices heard and valued.
  • Kinship: the leading kinship care charity in England and Wales.
  • Pause: they work with women who have experienced, or are at risk of, repeat removals of children from their care.

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