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In care and in school

All children are vulnerable but children in care are the most vulnerable of all. They must navigate the tricky waters of childhood and grow into emotionally and intellectually fully- formed adults with little or no access to their parents. Of course those parents have often been removed from the picture for very good reasons, but that does not make the challenges posed by a childhood in care any less steep.

Some of the luckier youngsters gain new families when they are adopted, but many others must make do with care home workers as their only parental figures.

Many of us would find growing up in this way difficult to imagine.

And yet sadly – both for society and the children affected – demand for places in care is at all-time high. According to CAFCASS (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service), there were 10,199 applications between April last year and March this year: that’s almost 11 per cent higher than in the same period last year. January 2012 alone saw 912 applications – the highest ever number for a single month.

Without the support of a family and with only the patchiest of access to positive role models, many care home kids drift into lives of disadvantage and underachievement. Recent figures from the Department of Education are stark: in 2011 just 12.8 per cent of children who had been in care for a minimum of one year took home five good grade GCSEs, including English and Maths. For other children the figure was 57.9 per cent.

Children in care often struggle with the legacy left by those parents no longer in their lives. Many have come from troubled or abusive homes and as a result they are a telling ten times more likely to have special educational needs and eight times more likely to be excluded from school, according to figures from the Who Cares? Trust.
These kinds of figures have led to claims that the education system is failing children in care, a concern which lies behind a new proposal from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Looked After Children and Care Leavers. They have suggested that schools be given a ‘pupil premium plus’ – £1,000 in extra funding for every child in care on their books.

Committee chairman Edward Timpson has extensive personal experience of the problems faced by children without families: two of his younger brothers are adopted and his parents have fostered a remarkable 90 children. He is a straightforward about the importance of education for ‘looked after’ children, as those in care are now known:

“Education can be a lifeline…The pupil premium plus would be a well-targeted way to get extra resources directly to the children and really make a difference. It is a practical acknowledgement of the deeper-rooted problems children in care have in education and a demonstration of our commitment to help them fulfil their potential.”

I think the pupil premium plus is an excellent idea and I sincerely hope the Prime Minister gets behind it too. Children in care deserve all the help they can get.

The founder of Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known family law solicitors and divorce lawyers. She retired from Stowe Family Law in 2017.

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  1. Observer says:

    Applications for care seem to me, though I may be wrong, to be a very good index of the overall lack of ethics within a country. It would be interesting to compare your statistics with those of the USA.
    When our bigger societal role models consist of states that engage in illegal warfare, and heads of corporations that behave hundreds of times worse than criminals and then are rewarded for it with bonuses, and charities that abuse their power to spread dishonesty or even hatred, you cannot really blame today’s youth for growing up the way they do, and for perpetuating a toxic cycle.
    Also, when parents are practically forced by law to fight for custody of their children in the circuses known as family courts, this does not set a good model either.
    What Britain has done to its children is disgraceful.

  2. JamesB says:

    Do agree that the number of children not being brought up by either of their parents is a good indication of the lack of ethics in a country.
    Don’t think we are the worst for it. For example Brasil seems to have a problem with Street children, etc. I do believe (speculate) that these figures would be relatively low in Scandinavia. Good societies try and keep families together as much as possible. Personally I try to be there for my children as much as I can.
    Reminds me. There was a story about the Holocaust and how a Rabbi was told he didn’t have to go to the chamber with the children, he said he wouldn’t abandon them when they needed him the most. We need more like that. More Self sacrifice, less individualism. All this is becoming subjective though. I will comment that there is a CAFCASS industry working to take children away though and that isn’t good. Who’d be a social worker though, Very difficult job.

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