Urgent reforms needed to end alarming rise in number of children in care in Wales
Urgent reforms are needed to end the alarming increase in number of children in care.
That is the finding of an inquiry by the Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education Committee, which has today called for the Welsh Government to work to reverse a “frightening trend” of more and more children being taken into care.
Worryingly, the number of children in care in Wales has increased by almost 23% since 2013.
The inquiry was led by the voices of young people from across Wales with direct experience of the care system.
Many shared with Committee Members on how they felt ignored and powerless, with no say in the decisions that affect their lives.
Now the Committee is recommending Welsh Government focus its reforms on radically strengthening the support provided to children and young people who have experienced care.
It has called for more legal responsibilities to be placed on the local authorities and other public bodies who act as parents to these young people, so that they actively provide the support they need, as any good parent would for their own children.
In total, the Committee calls for 12 ‘radical reforms’ to drive urgent and much-needed changes to the care system.
The report makes 27 recommendations in total.
This includes calls for a law that will require councils to calculate the maximum number of caseloads a children’s care social worker can safely manage and do everything they can to keep to those caseload limits.
It suggests this could be based on the Welsh laws for safe nursing levels.
This would help to address the trauma caused to young people when care workers are overstretched.
Young people told the Committee their cases were passed around social workers leading to them having to tell their life story over again, feeling like they are not a priority and, in some cases, self-harming to get the attention of their social worker.
Other recommendations include:
- Making ‘care experience’ a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
- Ending the “cliff edge” approach to support services for many young people when they turn 21, by extending the support provided to care leavers by law until they are 25
- Giving care experienced people up to the age of 25 “priority need” status when homeless and the highest priority in housing allocation policies
- Working to end the cycle of care, by making it a legal right for all care experienced parents to receive intensive wrap-around care and access to an independent support worker if a child is placed on a child protection register
- Making it a legal right for all children in care to access trauma-informed mental health therapy and long-term advocacy support (someone to help express their wishes and stand up for their rights) from when they enter the care system
Jayne Bryant MS, Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee said: “Throughout our inquiry we heard from young people who had experienced the care system and the organisations that support them.
“Their stories spoke of pain and trauma, and painted a picture of a system that is failing too many.
“Anybody claiming that the state is doing its corporate parenting job well should consider whether they would be happy for their own child to be cared for by that system. Whether any good parent would want that for their own child.
“The Welsh Government has committed to a radical reform of the system, and we’re pleased to see that reiterated in a declaration with young people a few weeks ago.
“Now is the time for action. These young people desperately need more support and the guarantee that support will be there for them by making it their legal right to access it.”
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