Looked After Children: Improving Life Chances
- 05 December 2018
- 08:30 - 16:30
- Manchester Conference Centre
Open Forum Events invite you to join us at Looked After Children: Safeguarding Welfare-Fulfilling Aspirations.
This conference formulates part of an extensive event portfolio on children and young people and is the second meeting focusing specifically on the lives of children within the care system.
The number of children taken into care is at a ten-year high, according to government figures published in November 2018. The official data shows that England has 75,420 looked after children, which represents a 4% increase on the previous year.
The increasing numbers, coupled with cumulative pressure on local authority budgets, means that children’s services are struggling to provide the quality care provision children have a right to expect. Any failings within the system can impact on life chances, make children more vulnerable and expose them to a greater risk of harm and exploitation.
The Looked After Children: Safeguarding Welfare-Fulfilling Aspirations conference will provide delegates with an informed analysis of the current system and provide a clearer understanding of:
• The programmes of work being undertaken to ensure children in care can flourish through educational attainment and encourage general achievement
• Some of the current issues within the system that are impacting on the progress of children and curtailing their development into happy and successful adults
• Factors that influence the health and wellbeing of children in care and some of the measure being adopted to combat them
With an agenda full of expertise, this conference will bring together key stakeholders who are involved in children’s services and who are committed to ensuring the welfare and opportunities for children or young people in care are not diminished because of the circumstances in which they find themselves. A difficult and often traumatic start in life must not be allowed to dictate children’s futures.
The number of children being removed from their families, due to the risk of neglect or abuse, continues to rise. To add to the increase in the number requiring local authority care, the adoption rate fell by 13%, year on year, to 3,820 compared to the peak in 2015 of 5,360. A reduction in programmes such as Sure Start, which supported families to stay together, have also impacted on the number of children entering the care system, putting it under escalating pressure.
73% of looked after children are in foster care, with an increasing number being placed in kinship care where extended family and friends take on responsibility for the child. One in ten children are allocated residential accommodation, however, out of borough placements are commonplace with four in ten living outside their local authority area and one in five being more than 20 miles away. This, along with multiple placement moves from care home to care home, has created a situation where vulnerable children have been described as being ‘treated like cattle’.
Children in unregulated accommodation and those living independently, without any adult supervision, are also finding themselves in less than ideal circumstances. Stability in accommodation, education and social work support is a major influence on a child’s development and happiness.
Children in care are more likely to be victims of criminal exploitation, such as ‘county lines’, or else become embroiled in the criminal justice system themselves, which can have a devastating impact on their long-term future. To prevent looked after children and care leavers from gaining a criminal record, the government has published ‘The national protocol on reducing unnecessary criminalisation of looked-after children and care leavers’ which provides a framework to help local areas reduce criminalisation and promote better outcomes.
Difficult and sometimes traumatic experiences early on in life can impact on children’s mental health and emotional wellbeing, however, for many children expressing themselves is not easy. Support can be found in many guises, however, with digital technology and social media platforms firmly ensconced in youth culture, it is no surprise that the use of apps is the way forward in allowing children to communicate their thoughts and feelings.
The Looked After Children: Safeguarding Welfare-Fulfilling Aspirations conference will take an insightful and informative analysis of the care system and how it can best support children to fulfill their potential and lead happy, successful lives.
We know that looked after children often have early experience of trauma and adversity, however, a difficult start in life should not predict their future. How can we ensure that looked after children progress into becoming successful, happy and healthy adults?
Children who are growing up in care often do not do as well in school as their peers.
All children should be adequately supported to do well and reach their full potential, whatever their background. There needs to be greater attention on the needs of learners who are looked after, to support them do better in school, and transition successfully into the next stage of their education or employment.
The Greater Manchester Looked After Children's Forum (GMLACF) is the recipient of the first ever NEON Widening Access Partnership Award. The award recognises organisations that have worked together and supported each other to effectively widen access.
The GMLACF was formed in 2011 with a primary focus of supporting the educational progression of Care Leavers and Looked After Children.
The number of children in care living in unsafe and unsuitable accommodation is on the increase. A recent report revealed that over 5,000 teenagers are living in unregulated accommodation – up 70% from a decade ago. A report also reveals that thousands of teenagers in council care are living in B&Bs, flats and even tents and caravans - with no live-in adult supervision.
Thousands of children in care face multiple changes to their home, school and social worker. During 2016-17, nearly 2,400 children changed home, school and social worker, while 9,060 had two of those changes, putting them more vulnerable and at greater risk of exploitation.
Vulnerable children, including those that are in the care of social services, are targeted by criminal gangs to undertake criminal activity such as the criminal enterprise called ‘county lines’, where children are used to distribute drugs, supplied by large city gangs, to rural and coastal areas.
Research suggests that children in care are 13 times more likely to be criminalised than other young people. At the end of 2018 a national protocol on reducing criminalisation of looked-after children was published by the government which is a framework to help social care and criminal justice agencies keep looked-after children out of the criminal justice system.
Evidence shows that the mental health of looked after children is poorer than that of the general population. Children in care are four times more likely than their non-looked after peers to have a mental health condition and almost half of those in the care system have a diagnosable mental health disorder.
Hundreds of looked after children, supported by Action for Children, are to be given access to unique app technology from Mind of My Own, which encourages them to share worries and concerns, directly with their social workers.
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If you are awaiting funding you can request us to hold your place today to ensure you do not miss out.
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