Sunday, 23 October 2011

Lost in Care

In July of this year, Keith Towler the Children's Commissioner for Wales published his report, "Lost in Care" about the experiences of Looked After Children leaving care:
The aim of this publication is to give readers a flavour of what it is like to leave care and to demonstrate the experiences of young people who are currently preparing to leave care as well as those who have recently left care. It draws on the information we have gathered from young people themselves as well as drawing on reports and statistics produced by other key organisations.

This report was discussed at Wrecsam's last Corporate Parenting Panel and it was agreed that steps would be taken to implement those recommendations of the report not already in place.

Following on from this report, Assembly Member Ken Skates (having won a backbench ballot) now intends to introduce a Private Members Bill to extend care for Children Leaving Care from 18 to 25 years of age with a particular emphasis on housing. Such initiatives are to be welcomed as there are many young people leaving care who end up on the streets or in prison and further support for them is long overdue.

Despite asking Ken whether his proposed bill has being costed and whether the Government will support the substantial increase in funding to Local Authorities that introduction will entail; no reply has been forthcoming.

In recent years the numbers of children placed into care has increased substantially but budgets for Looked After Children teams have not seen similar increases. Additionally court judgements such as Southwark (Homeless 16 and 17 year olds treated as being in care) and Barking and Dagenham (unaccompanied Asylum Seekers) have imposed a further financial burden on local authorities which has not been considered in past budget settlements.

Ken Skates and the Welsh Government need to reassure the WLGA and opposition parties that his Private Members bill will be fully funded so as to obtain cross party support.

It is somewhat ironic that the only 'ambitious' piece of legislation aimed to improve ourcomes for a vulnerable group, which has emanated from the government benches in the last 6 months is a private members bill.

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