Posted: Thu 11th Jul 2024

Young people speak out against profiteering in Wales’ social care system

Wrexham.com for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area

Four remarkable young people gave evidence to the Senedd’s health committee about their experiences of Wales’ social care system, supporting plans to stamp out profiteering.

Mark Drakeford asked the witnesses if they agreed with the principle of the health and social care bill, which would remove profit from the care of looked-after children.

Elliott James told the former first minister – who introduced the proposal while leading the Welsh Government – that for every £10 given for a child in care, £3 is taken away in profit.

He said one relatively standard residential placement can cost as much as £5,000 a week, with support workers paid a “shockingly” low amount.

Elliott stressed: “At the moment, companies are profiting off us and we are not for sale.”

‘Let down’

Joanne Griffith similarly said: “We are not in the care system for people to profit off us – we don’t choose to go in the system, the system chooses us.

“Why should people be able to gain money … and spend it on whatever they want when in actual fact the money should be going to the young people, so that we can thrive?”

She added: “Put yourselves in our shoes, you probably wouldn’t want to be profited off.”

Rhian Thomas and Rowan Gray wholeheartedly agreed with the principle. But Rowan raised concerns for-profit providers “could end up packing up and going elsewhere”.

Elliott raised concerns about children being placed a long way from home, saying: It’s not just about the profit, it’s about the care of young people as a whole.

“A lot of young people are being let down currently.”

‘Deeply traumatised’

He said: “Moving a child hundreds of miles away isn’t always suitable.

“These placements can’t commit to contact, they can’t commit to free time so that leaves us not being able to see our family, not being able to go and see our friends.”

He warned that placements for children and young people with severe mental health problems are more than likely to break down because carers cannot cope.

Elliott said: “Unfortunately, the system thinks as soon as we enter care, all of our problems have been solved. They haven’t. We are still deeply traumatised young people who need care, love and support.”

While recognising the need for emergency placements, Elliot raised concerns about children moving from one to the next until a suitable placement is found.

He asked: “Why can’t we be placed into a suitable placement the first time around?”

‘Placement hoppers’

Elliott told the Senedd some young people are “placement hoppers”, going to as many as 10 or 20 different placements in one week.

He said he was given only an hour-and-a-half notice before going into care and nobody was trained to really understand his autism.

“I was always left to suffer by myself because nobody knew how to help me,” he said, warning that symptoms of autism were treated as a behavioural issue.

Rhian stressed the importance of keeping siblings together and support for young people transitioning into care or adulthood.

She told Senedd members: “When you first come into care that’s the hardest part of it all.”

‘Middle of nowhere’

Rowan said it is vital to match the children going into care with the right foster carers.

“My last placement was with some people that were in their 60s,” he said. “When I was younger, I had a lot of energy and I was always wanting to do something.”

He told committee members the foster carers did the best they could but he wanted to build memories and they were sometimes not able to take part in activities he found fun.

Rowan was placed “out in the middle of nowhere” more than 10 miles from home.

“I didn’t have anyone around my own age who I could build friendships with,” he said.

Calling for more accountability, he told the Senedd: “If my local authority had actually done what they said they were going to do, I wouldn’t be sat here.

“I would be currently in Bristol living with my mother. Because there was no accountability … they went back on their word … and I ended up in long-term foster care.”

‘A place to call home’

Joanne raised the importance of stability and continuity of care.

She told the committee: “It’s really important that we have a placement that we know we can stay in permanently and we’re not going to be moved within 24 hours or a week.”

Joanne added: “We need a placement that we can call home.”

She called for compulsory training around mental health and disability, so “we know if we have an issue we can go to the foster carers and we’re not going to get stigmatised for it”.

Joanne also called for more unannounced visits to build up a more accurate picture.

The health committee is scrutinising the bill, aiming to report back to the Senedd in October, ahead a vote on the general principles with amending stages to follow.

By Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter



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