Many children in care wished they could stay in their placements for longer, Ofsted’s annual children’s social care survey has found.
Ofsted reported that a recurring theme within the responses this year was that children in foster care and children’s homes said they wished they could stay where they were for longer and did not have to move on when they were 18.
“Everything, it is amazing here and I never want to move, we have a great relationship with our carers and our foster brothers and they are a family so I don’t think of then [them] as my foster carers they’re our parents.”
(child in foster care)
The survey also found that 99% of children in foster care who responded to the survey felt safe where they lived.
There are 12 million children aged between 0–17 years in England and 80,080 are children looked after. Of those children in care, 72% live with foster carers.
The children’s social care survey results explores the views of children in residential care and living away from home, and those of their carers. This year’s survey received over 49,000 responses, with over 7,000 of those from children — the most responses ever received and 7,400 more responses to the survey from all audience types than the previous year.
Many of the children said that they would like COVID-19 to ‘go away,’ but said that they felt they had been helped to adjust to the restrictions by the people who cared for them.
A lot of the children commented that those caring for them tried to ensure that they had fun during the lockdown periods. Children talked about a wide range of activities they had taken part in, both indoors and outdoors, and said that their carers made sure that they had regular exercise. They said that they have enjoyed being taken out on walks locally. Some children said they have been given new equipment such as bikes, basketball nets and trampolines to help them to be active at home.
Some children reported that if they felt scared or worried about the current situation, they were able to go to the staff/carers to talk about their worries. Other children said that if they were worried about COVID-19, staff/carers would think of things to distract them such as games, movie nights and having a longer time on their devices.
Many children referred to their mental health unprompted. The fact they did this demonstrates how this is an important area to children and perhaps also for the people who care for them. Many children were positive about how the people who looked after them had tried to help their mental health during the pandemic and through lockdowns. It appears that mental health was a topic of interest and conversation during the pandemic at the places these children lived or stayed.
Overall, the responses from children seem to suggest that they have accepted the current situation. They appeared mostly positive about how they were being cared for and, with the help of the people who look after them, had adjusted to the restrictions.
A small number of children expressed unhappiness at not being able to see their families. Many others told us they had been able to keep in contact with their families whether in person or through phone or video calls. They appear to have been encouraged to keep in touch with family and friends during the pandemic. However, some parents said that they had no or little face-to-face contact with their child, because of the restrictions. The reasons they gave for this varied, from the distance of the home from where the parents lived, and the restrictions on travel to the place children were staying having restrictions on visitors. Some did appreciate the video contact.
On the whole, children were positive about the support that those looking after them gave with their schoolwork. Some children specifically commented that they had been given use of laptops by the people who cared for them, so they were able to join in with virtual lessons at home.
However, this was not so much the case in residential homes and boarding schools. A third of children in boarding schools and more than half of children in residential further education accommodation felt that only ‘sometimes’ or ‘never’ were they helped to do well with their schoolwork or college work. This is an increase of 21% from last year.
Furthermore, a lower proportion of children in boarding schools and in residential accommodation in further education felt they were well cared for compared with the children who lived or stayed elsewhere.
Yvette Stanley, Ofsted’s National Director for Social Care, said: “These surveys are really important, and I want to thank everyone who gave us their views. It’s important to know how children and young people feel about those who support them, and brilliant to see that so many children are happy where they live and with the care that they receive. There is always room for improvement though. We will use this feedback to help us focus our inspections on the things that matter to children.”
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