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CALL FOR RADICAL REFORMS FOR CHILDREN IN CARE

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NCH today called for a radical reform of the care system in Monday's children in care green paper in order to addre...
NCH today called for a radical reform of the care system in Monday's children in care green paper in order to address the stark gap in achievements and lifestyle between children in care and others.

The charity, which works with children in care, is calling on the government to prioritise the prevention of children being taken into care in the first place.

The 60,000 children in care have dramatically different life chances than other children. They are three times more likely to be cautioned or convicted of an offence (1), four times more likely to have a mental health disorder (1) and one in five homeless people are care leavers (2).

NCH chief executive Clare Tickell says: 'The terrible inequality between children in care and others is shameful - and now we have the opportunity to put this right. Every child deserves the care, attention and chances in life that we give our own children and this must be reflected in the government's reforms. Only with radical change will this green paper ensure these vulnerable young people get a fair start.'

NCH is calling for the green paper to include the prevention of children going into care, increased focus on mental health and well-being and improved support for care leavers:

Preventing admission to care

The priority must be to prevent children going into care in the first place. Services such as the NCH Phoenix Project in Wimbledon show that working intensively with families to prevent family breakdown can help keep children in their family home.

Mental Health and well - being

Young people in care are four times more likely to have a mental health disorder than other young people (1). Failure to acknowledge and treat these problems may cause difficulties ranging from placement breakdowns to serious mental health problems later in life. As an organisation coordinating support for children in care, such as foster care, NCH wants local authorities to take responsibility for the mental health of children, all professionals to be trained and understand the needs of children in care, and that children in care have continuous access to a variety of health services.

Leaving Care

Where young people from a stable background tend to leave home in their mid twenties, nearly half (43 per cent) of all young people leave care at just 16 or 17 (3) often without education, employment or training.

NCH wants to see the average age for leaving care increased to 21 and an end to the use of Bed and Breakfast for homeless care leavers (4). Local authorities must ensure that all those leaving care have the necessary financial support and life skills that are crucial to a successful adulthood.

Notes

1. Working with Children 2006 - 2007

2. 'Handle with care - an investigation into the care system', Centre for Young Policy Studies

3. ONS survey for DoH published in 2003: 'The mental health of young people looked after by local authorities in England'

4. NCH is calling for anend to the use of bed and breakfast as temporary accommodation for care leavers for longer than a limited emergency period

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