Outcomes for children in care: A tragedy of our time

Many young people that leave care end up homeless, or in prison or as sex workers. Credit: PA

There is no doubting the Government’s commitment to improving the life chances of children in care.

This is the third “headline” initiative in as many years.

We’ve had the Care Leavers Charter, the Care Leavers Strategy and now the promise of legislation. But is the rhetoric from central government having any impact?

Because there is also no doubting the absolute and continuing scandal of outcomes for children in care. It is in my view, one of the tragedies of our time.

We still have care leavers in bed and breakfasts – despite a promise from central government that that was to cease, and we still have too many inappropriate out of area placements despite repeated calls for that practice to end.

Many care leavers have complex mental health problems. Credit: PA

Outcomes are appalling, data collection still scant and some of our most vulnerable children left voiceless.

These are children the state promises to look after and then too often abandons at the age of 18.

Many of them have complex mental health problems and many end up homeless, or in prison or as sex workers and tragically as many as 1 in 6 may not live beyond their mid-twenties.

There is, I believe, plenty of sincerity from a team at the department of education to see a change.

But the raft of initiatives from central government – clearly proof of commitment - aren’t yet having the impact they should on the ground where local authorities have to deliver change.

I have watched them promise change before and so far seen little difference. I hope this time the rhetoric becomes reality.