The government is to review the effectiveness of children’s homes in England amid growing criticism of the number of vulnerable children who are allowed to go missing or run away.
Whitehall sources said ministers were preparing to rethink the role of such homes in the protection of children, as a parliamentary inquiry revealed that their occupants were three times more likely to run away and be exposed to physical and sexual abuse and exploitation as children who lived at home.
Anyone who has read the ‘Winston Smith’ blog will be totally unsurprised at these findings.
In fact, the government could have saved itself some money by just reading it and extrapolating from that what the problems are…
The all-party groups on runaway and missing children and looked-after children and care-leavers found local authority social workers too often considered children in homes “troublesome”, “a nuisance” and a drain on resources.
Many of the comments at Gadget’s blog go into great detail about the uselessness of social workers and their willingness to pass the buck to the police, so I find that rather odd.
Did no-one think to ask any of the other service providers to have an input into this? Was it just left to the social workers?
One child protection worker told the inquiry that some professionals saw girls who went missing from homes and became victims of sexual exploitation as “slags who knew what they were getting themselves into” rather than vulnerable young people in need of support.
Another said: “You can have someone looking after a young person who, the day before, their experience may have been working at a deli counter in Asda.”
The committees found the children’s home system was “not fit for purpose” and said children are going missing despite the government spending an average of £200,000 a year per child on care home places.
Government – it spends and spends and spends and it hardly ever gives value for money!
The children’s minister Tim Loughton accepted the findings of the report and said the government would set out urgent steps to be taken in the coming week, which are likely to include improvements in tracking when and where children go missing, restrictions on local authorities sending children to homes hundreds of miles away and demands that Ofsted takes missing children into account when it audits homes.
Will that resolve the issues? Well, only if the lax regimes that Winston describes are rejected in favour of some boundaries and discipline:
Enver Solomon, policy director at the Children’s Society, said evidence from ongoing police investigations and court cases confirmed the extent of the problem, which he said particularly affected children between the ages of 11 and 17, who are more likely to end up in homes after previous remedies have failed.
“It is completely unacceptable that existing rules are simply being ignored and frankly, some local authorities and children’s homes are letting down children by failing to act as a proper ‘parent’,” he said.
But acting as a ‘proper parent’ entails instilling discipline, punishing non-compliance, rewarding good behaviour only and demanding personal responsibility.
All things that, so far, have been conspicuously lacking from children’s homes of the type Winston has blogged about…