Younger children in care in the UK ‘often don’t know why they are there’

23 November 2018

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YOUNGER children in the care system are often confused about why they are unable to live with their parents, the latest survey of children in care suggests.

The annual study, by the charity Coram Voice and the University of Bristol, is the largest of its kind, surveying more than 2500 children and young people who are being looked after in the care system.

It found that more than half the youngest children in care did not understand why they were not able to live at home; and one third of teenagers also did not fully understand the reasons for being in care.

Getting used to different social workers was another challenge that children and young people identified: some teenagers had had three different social workers in the past year. A fifth of the youngest children, aged four to seven, did not know who their social worker was.

But the survey also found that much of children’s experience in care was positive: 82 per cent of children and young people felt that their life was getting better. Compared with children and young people in the general population, a larger proportion of children and young people in care said that they felt safe where they were living — 88 per cent compared with 75 per cent — and that they lived with an adult who took an interest in what they did at school or college.

The director of the University of Bristol’s Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies, Professor Julie Selwyn, said: “While there is still much more local authorities can do to improve services, it is important to recognise that most looked-after children and young people felt that their lives were improving, felt satisfied, and were positive about their futures.”

She said, however, that additional support had to be provided for the 18 per cent of young people who had low self-esteem, and had no trusted adult in their lives.

The study was carried out through online surveys with young people up to the age of 18.

The latest government figures show that the number of children in care has risen every year for the past nine years. There are now 62 children in care for every 10,000 children in the UK.

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