Wednesday, 23 July 2014

What a week!

This has been in very many senses a tumultuous week for ECLCM.

Only seven days ago we were delighted with the report of the All Party Select Education Committee recognising as it did that children leaving residential care were/are every bit as worthy of the support that ‘Staying Put’ as their peers leaving foster care. The additional recently publicised proposals that the placement of young people in care in unregulated and all too frequently awful Bed and Breakfast accommodation suggests that a considerable number of our elected representatives really do care about children in care.

Perhaps rather perversely, in some people’s eyes, we have also launched a ‘membership scheme’ for ECLCM. I feel certain that many people may have asked “Why?” It’s essentially because we recognised that our campaign varied and comparatively successful as it has been is rather one dimensional in terms of it’s public ‘cutting edge’. Membership also tends to suggest longevity and whilst all those who support the principles of our campaign would be delighted to find that our raison d'ĂȘtre was made redundant by a speedy change in legislation we appreciate that this is not likely. I hope and trust that we are wrong but our assessment is that despite the magnificent work of the Select Committee it seems extremely unlikely that our legislature will find the time to consider placing their recommendations before Parliament and putting it to a vote before the next General Election. So then, ECLCM needs to ensure that it is still around to work alongside many colleagues and other like-minded organisations between now and then. Thus far we have been very pleasantly surprised and gratified and the take up of membership and indeed the many offers of help that new members have made to us. Our biggest challenge as a group of people all of whom have day jobs is in trying to create an infrastructure that can coordinate all these generous offers. Please bare with us on that one.

This task has been rendered a little more challenging by the departure of Ian Dickson from the Campaign Core Group. Ian was a self-confessed grease monkey who laboured behind the scenes in ‘the engine room’ on behalf of the campaign – as indeed he still will in support of the common cause that brought our original group together. He will be missed. But that is the nature of ECLCM. Supporters, members and even opponents would perhaps welcome some clarification. ECLCM is not a group of people it is a Campaign. From our first days in December 2013 we have welcomed many supporters and some of those at the centre of organising things have left. This is another reason for opening membership. There is no-one who is currently actively involved in ECLCM who is not replaceable – we are entirely unimportant, merely for the time being the custodians of lead responsibility of driving forward our contribution to changing the current unjust treatment of residential care leavers. The current incumbents will give what they can while they can knowing that from within our membership there will be and are others to take up the cause as and when any one of us, for whatever, reason has to move on or step aside.

It’s Every Child Leaving Care (that) Matters not those doing their best to work on their behalf.

We as currently constituted or perhaps an entirely different leadership group will be continuing our work over the next nine months and if we haven’t succeeded by the we will be knocking on the door of the new occupants of the government benches in May next year.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

ECLCM response to the 16 plus care options report

Today, the Education Committee produced its long awaited report “Into independence, not out of care: 16 plus care options”.

The Every Child Leaving Care Matters (ECLCM) team wish to thank the Committee for its work and express our agreement and appreciation of its findings. The ECLCM campaign is a group of people with no affiliations to any political party or organisation, who are not funded by or dependent upon any vested interests in the field of child care or social welfare, and who do not stand to gain from any particular initiative being recommended by Committee. 

Back in January of this year, Ben Ashcroft representing ECLCM met Craig Whittaker, Conservative MP for Calder Valley and discussed how implementing ‘Staying Put’ might be introduced for young people leaving children’s homes. Craig organised an adjournment debate, and this led to an exchange of ideas and views with government representatives and the DfE.

ECLCM are motivated by one cause only – that ALL children leaving care should receive appropriate support to enable them to successfully make the transition to adult life. Where this involves their being allowed and supported to remain in the placement up until the age of 21, subject to their wishes and those of the provider, this must be an option. This option should be available at least until the age of 21 for all looked after children where ever they are placed. 

ECLCM have campaigned for this objective since the Staying Put’ initiative was implemented for young people in foster care only and children in other placements, most particularly residential care, were excluded in December 2013. It has been and remains our consistent view that this is discrimination and poor practice. 

Ben Ashcroft, said: 

“We're delighted about the recommendations in the report, it's a good day for our team and a great day potentially for every child in or leaving care. Today should be seen as a celebration and a positive step forward. We hope that the Department of Education will make this into policy no matter what cost it is. You can't put a price on a life.”

ECLCM is delighted to note that the Committee has supported our view in full and is recommending to government that:

“Young people living in residential children’s homes should have the right to remain there beyond the age of 18, just as young people in foster now have the right to Stay Put until the age of 21. We recommend that the DfE extend Staying Put to residential children’s homes.”

Indeed, Committee go further:

“We are not convinced by the DfE’s argument that the quality of children’s homes must improve before young people are able to ‘stay put’. Many young people are settled and thriving in residential children’s homes. Forcing them to move at the age of 18 from a home judged ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted to unregulated, sometimes unsuitable, settings is not only illogical in policy terms, but potentially harmful to the individual in question.” 

“We recognise the resource constraints faced by local authority children’s services departments. Nonetheless, the young people in question have already experienced troubled and disrupted childhoods and are far too important for their welfare not to be prioritised. Extending support for these vulnerable young people should be considered an investment, which will lead to better outcomes for the individuals in question and for society as a whole.”

ECLCM applaud and thank Committee for reaching these brave conclusions. 

We at ECLCM also heartily concur with the Committees recommendation that the use of “Bed and Breakfast” accommodation (B&B) be forbidden for young people leaving care. ECLCM has always taken the view that a ban on the use of B&B accommodation for looked after young people should be implemented as soon as possible. We would suggest that DfE ban it now, and do not delay any longer. 

ECLCM support the views expressed at the Committee hearings that pilots for implementing Staying Put in residential settings are unnecessary, expensive and time wasting. As Committee include in their report, the views of Jonathan Stanley, CEO of the ICHA: 

“We do not need to have pilots; we can go forward with it now, on the basis that there are many children’s homes that are already “good”, and sustainably “good”, or better”.

As Committee noted:

“The ECLCM group pointed to Ofsted’s findings from inspections of 400 children’s homes, completed by June 2013:

• Overall effectiveness: 65% were good or outstanding; 7% were inadequate.

• Outcomes for young people: 67% were good or outstanding; 3% were inadequate.

• Quality of care: 74% were good or outstanding; 6% were inadequate.

• Safeguarding children and young people: 69% were good or outstanding; 6% were


The ECLCM team are delighted that, far from being a bunch of ‘radicals’ as one government spokesman described us, we are actually reflecting best practice and the views and needs of young care leavers. We feel vindicated that our objectives are supported by so many distinguished professionals, politicians, decision makers and the members of the Committee.

ECLCM consider these recommendations to be a positive and productive step forward. We hope that the DfE introduce them as policy soon. We call upon the government to listen to the views of the Committee and the experts and care leavers who contributed to the Committee’s work, and to accept and implement its recommendations without further delay. Care leavers have waited generations for this opportunity. Please don’t make them wait any longer.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

While We Are Waiting

The Education Committee has published its report Into independence, not out of care: 16 plus care optionsInto independence, not out of care: 16 plus care options

ECLCM will publish a response to this very positive report on this blog very soon.

While we were waiting!

A very short history of Government involvement in the ECLCM campaign:
December 2013

Early in December 2013, the government announced that children who were in foster care would be allowed and supported to remain with their foster carers until they were 21 years of age. Local authorities now have a legal duty to give families financial help for every young person who wants to stay with their foster parents until their 21st birthday. A pledge of £40 million extra funding for councils over the next three years has been allocated to support the change, which has been added to the Children and Families Bill.

As supporters of ECLCM know, this did NOT apply to all children in care, i.e. those in residential children’s homes would still have to leave at 18, although in reality this is often as young as 16. ECLCM then launched a petition which was set up by us with support from 38 degrees.

January 2014

Following the support of the petition, the Education Committee announced 22nd January 2014, that there would be an inquiry on 16 Plus Care Options into the provision of accommodation and care for looked after young people aged 16 and above.

As well as many other professionals, individuals, foster carers, care leavers, care home providers, social workers, we were asked to submit written evidence which we did.

We were asked to address the following points:

· The kinds of accommodation that are provided for young people aged 16 and 17 who are looked after by local authorities.

· The suitability, safety and regulatory nature of alternative accommodation provided for young people who are aged 16 and 17 and looked after by local authorities.

· Whether the Government’s announcement to extend local authorities duties to support young people wishing to stay with foster carers until the age of 21 should apply to those in residential children’s homes.

· Whether provision of alternative accommodation should be extended to the age of 21.

April 2014

30th April 2014 saw the Scrutiny into 16 plus care options where Ben Ashcroft, Chair of ECLCM and others gave evidence.

This was the first session in the Committee’s short inquiry into accommodation options for young people over the age of 16 in care. Issues explored included the types of accommodation provided for young people aged 16 and 17 who are looked after by local authorities and whether the Government’s announcement to extend local authorities duties to support young people wishing to stay with foster carers until the age of 21 should apply to those in residential children’s homes or alternative accommodation.

May 2014
16 Plus care options were explored further when the Education Committee continued its inquiry into 16 Plus care options on Wednesday 14 May.

Edward Timpson MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, Department for Education, was questioned on issues that had arisen in the course of the inquiry, including planning and preparation for 16 and 17 year olds moving to ‘other arrangements’; suitability, inspection and regulation of alternative accommodation; commissioning accommodation; and the Staying Put policy agenda.

You can watch the session here: Parliament TV: Watch the 16 Plus care options session

There are now nearly 7,500 people who have actually signed our petition to support equality for children in residential homes to have support until 21, the same as those in foster care. (Thank you). We suspect there are thousands of others who would support it if they were fully aware of the issue.

The question we have always asked is, would extending support to ALL looked after children to 21 reduce offending behaviour, homelessness, drugs and suicide? We know the statistics:

• up to 40% of 18-21 year olds in custody have been in care
• 27-35% adult male prisoners have been in care
• 57% of women in prison have been in care
• 1 in 5 homeless people have been in care

We believe the answer is a huge fat resounding YES. This campaign has always been about demanding equality for all young people in care wherever they may be placed: in foster care or residential care.

With the support of our members and signatories to the petition we are getting closer to achieving justice for children in residential care

ECLCM is a campaign group, without funding or political affiliations with any other group, formed to stop Government discrimination against children in residential care who want support to 21, the same as those in foster care.

Friday, 4 July 2014

ECLCM Proposal

ECLCM amended Proposal

The ECLCM Campaign Group is a number of individuals who came together in response to the Government announcement in December 2013 in relation to the introduction of ‘Staying Put’ arrangements for children in foster care.

This proposal, that the age until which a child may routinely stay in foster care be extended to 21, is welcome by the campaign group. However, the group considered it to be discriminatory and an injustice that children in residential care should not be afforded the same opportunity as part of a range of support options available to them as they prepare to leave care.
After six months campaigning and the garnishing of considerable support for their action – support that is clearly informed including as it does many social work academics, practitioners, children and young people from care, care leavers and other professionals in related fields – the group now proposes the following resolution.

“The ECLCM campaign group propose that the Government in Westminster amend the legislation to facilitate children in residential care being offered the opportunity for 'continuing care' up to the age of 21 years.
In most cases guidance relating to existing regulations can facilitate this being established, as it should be, in the children's home in which they are living on the eve of their 18th birthday.

The guidance needs to assert that 'staying put' in a children's homes can be long term and need not be circumscribed by previous custom and practice of this being short term, weeks or months.

The guidance can also direct the necessary risk assessment, vetting and any other requirements for safeguarding. Equally the positive aspects of older young people further on in the development of their resilience should not be minimised and should be recognised as offering others positive  role modelling and a demonstration of permanence; stability, continuity and security.
Placements should only be possible in homes that are judged by OFSTED to be ‘Good’ or better.

In this regard the ECLCM welcome the comments of the Education Select Committee Report ‘Into independence, not out of care:16pluscare options’ in relation to the use of B&B and specifically:
“ outright ban on B&B’s should be the long term objective, to be achieved through stronger enforcement of the sufficiency duty, which explicitly requires the provision of surplus placements to meet emergency need”

Care planning mechanisms are considered to be and are sufficiently robust to make such arrangements in a carefully planned manner. A placement rooted in the care plan can give stability, continuity and security for the years to 21.

Where this is not possible due to regulatory requirements as a consequence of there being a majority residents of the home over the age of 18 years, then an alternative local care setting should enable the young person to continue to benefit from the continuation of the close supportive relationship with their home.”