Craig Whittaker is the Member of Parliament for Calder Valley and Chair of the APPG Looked After Children and Care Leavers
More often than not, when we hear about the care system, it is because children are being let down. So I want to let you know about the work that has been going on quietly with Ministers, MPs and officials to improve the support for vulnerable children in the care system.
Last year, two cross-party groups of MPs (The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Looked After Children and Care Leavers, and The All Party Parliamentary Group on Runaways and Missing Children and Adults) worked together to publish a report – supported by The Children’s Society and The Who Cares Trust - which highlighted a number of concerns about children who were going missing from care.
There are just over 65,000 children in care in England. Most of these children live with foster families but around nine per cent are placed in children’s homes. These children are extremely vulnerable – the majority of them taken into care because of serious abuse and neglect. Many have special educational needs or behavioural difficulties that require specialist support. Many are placed in children’s homes following numerous previous placement breakdowns.
Our report showed that not only were children placed in homes that could not always provide the specialist care that the children so desperately needed but that local authorities were placing thousands of children miles away from their local area, often contrary to the best interests of the child. The report showed that a combination of poor decisions about placements and inadequate support in children’s homes made children in care easy targets for grooming and sexual exploitation. It also made them more likely to run away.