The New Statesman remind us that not all will be having an easy time at Christmas. They’ve been talking to a young woman in care and those that look after her:
“Christmas here can be very difficult. Sometimes they think their parents are going to turn up, and then they don’t. Even if they do, they might get home and find that Christmas dinner is, you know, a tin of beans,” says Jane Raby, a senior worker at the Community Living Project, a residential home run by NCH, the children’s charity, for six 15- to 17-year-olds in a leafy district of Leeds. “We have to try to manage their expectations, and give them as good a time as we can here. But it is hard.”
The experience I had working with children in care as a councillor was that being “normal” was hugely important to them. I’d guess that Christmas is one of those times when that is very difficult, particularly for those in residential care and for those leaving care.
The New Statesman has figures which tell a gloomy tale:
- 60,000 children are in care at any one time
- 85,000 each year will spend some time in care
- 50% of girls leaving care are single mothers within two years
- 25% of girls in care become pregnant before they leave
- 1/3 of the homeless have been in care
- 50% of prisoners under the age of 25 have spent time in care
- 63% of children in care are there as a result of abuse
- 77% of residential care staff are not qualified to government standard
Of course being in care can be a positive (if difficult) experience and some of the young people I knew from care have gone on to start their adult lives in ways that make me and all the people who know them proud.
But it is why the Care Matters Green Paper is imporant, recognising as it does that the support isn’t adequate and that “leaving care” has become an unhelpful concept, limiting the support that young people get from local authorities on the basis of age rather than competence.
Here’s Alan Johnson in the introduction to the paper:
Quite simply, it is now clear that this help has not been sufficient. The life chances of all children have improved but those of children in care have not improved at the same rate. The result is that children in care are now at greater risk of being left behind than was the case a few years ago – the gap has actually grown…
The fact that children in care have to rely on the State for part or all of their upbringing makes them truly special. It is what distinguishes them from many others who also need extra help. It is why, in my view, we are under an urgent obligation to take action with them and for them.
Time for corporate parents to make a few New Year’s resolutions.