The government has been urged to ensure an independent review of the care system delivers meaningful and lasting change for children in and on the edge of care.
A coalition of organisations working with children and families has written an open letter to children and families minister Vicky Ford and called for the government to commit to its manifesto pledge of delivering a meaningful review of the care system which should improve the experiences, outcomes and life chances of care-experienced children and young people.
"In 2020, too many young people in and on the edges of care find themselves without the love, support and stability they need to heal and thrive. As you know, over 78,000 children are looked after by local authorities in England today, a record number, and many more are being raised in kinship care by relatives or friends or have left the care system through adoption," said the report.
"Yet at the same time, local authorities are facing significant financial pressures, there is a lack of safe and secure places for children to live, and too many families find themselves without the support they need to care for children who have experienced trauma and adversity," the letter added.
It went on to say that the coalition - which includes representatives from Barnardo's, Action for Children, National Children's Bureau, NSPCC, The Care Leavers Association and Adoption UK - was "delighted" to see the commitment in the Conservative Party manifesto to a review of the care system and the subsequent confirmation that the review will be “bold and broad... independently led... with the aim of better supporting, protecting and improving the outcomes of vulnerable children and young people”.
Such a review is "urgently needed" to provide the opportunity to transform the experiences, outcomes and life chances of care-experienced children and young people in England, which for too long have "lagged behind their peers".
The group said the basic legal infrastructure of the Children Act 1989 should be protected and should include the views of children looked after under Special Guardianship Orders, kinship care arrangements and those who have left care through adoption.
The following principles should be adhered to, the coalition added.
1) Independent - the review should be genuinely independent,led by a chair with no conflict of interest, strong understanding of the children’s social care system.
2) Care-experienced people at the heart - lived experience must be at the heart of the review and the principle of equality of participation for care-experienced children, young people and adults must be embedded.
3) Evidence-based - the review should recognise and build on the existing evidence base, particularly that which has engaged with the views and experiences of care-experienced children and young people.
4) Sufficient time and resource - the review should not be rushed, but given sufficient time and resource to report with a clear shared understanding of a timeline for government response and implementation.
5) Government commitment - there should be cross-government commitment to act upon the review’s recommendations within an appropriate time-frame.
"This is an important opportunity that must not be wasted. We urge you to ensure that planning for the review considers the principles we have outlined. Our children and young people deserve nothing less," the letter concluded.