Govt promises help for children in care

The government has today promised to look after children in care “as a good parent would” and published a raft of new measures to help looked after youngsters.

A new green paper outlines plans to give children in state care extra financial help, including a £2,000 bursary for university and an extra £100 in their child trust fund for every year they are in care, as well as more targeted support.

Good schools would be required to take children in care even if they were full, in an effort to tackle the current situation where just 11 per cent got five good GCSEs last year, compared to a national average of 55 per cent.

There would be new qualifications and training for staff in children’s homes and for foster parents, a new head teacher with responsibility for children in care would be appointed to every local area, and each child would also have a named health worker to help them.

Today’s plans come after a highly critical report from children’s charity Barnardo’s which catalogued “shocking” levels of disadvantage among children in care, which results in their being 25 times more likely to go to jail than their non-care classmates.

Last month, education secretary Alan Johnson admitted: “Instead of bringing them up, we let them down – bouncing them from one location to the next, dumping them in the worst schools and forcing them to fend for themselves from the tender age of 16.”

But today he welcomed the green paper’s proposals, which will be subject to a three-month consultation, as a “chance to really address some serious issues at the very core of education and social exclusion – it’s not a chance we can afford to miss”.

Barnardo’s chief executive Martin Narey also praised the plans, saying it was to the government’s “considerable credit” that it accepted the current system was not working and was determined to make a difference “as a matter of urgency”.

“The challenge now is to move from the admirable intent behind the green paper to delivering sustained change which has the potential to transform the life chances of these children. Barnardo’s stands ready to do all it can to assist in that process,” he said.

Shadow education secretary David Willetts expressed his support for the proposals in the green paper, but questioned whether there was the capacity to deliver them.

“There is nothing short of a crisis in recruitment of social workers, there are 10,000 vacancies for foster carers, and local authorities are overwhelmed,” he said.

“There are wider issues too. Many children in care have troubled and chaotic lives, and all too often government initiatives have mirrored that chaos.”