Combatting deep-rooted institutional ambivalence to the plight of vulnerable children in care

Andy Elvin
Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The UK’s leading fostering charity, TACT, welcomes the children’s commissioner new reports including ‘Children who no one knows what to do with’, and ‘Private provision in children’s social care’.

We fully recognise and endorse the commissioner’s description of the current “deep-rooted institutional ambivalence” to the plight of vulnerable children in care, which we see manifesting itself in many ways.

The “deep-rooted institutional ambivalence” also shows itself in the lack of priority to promote or help recruit foster carers by the DfE, whilst recruitment of adopters is well resourced. And there is also the Staying Put farrago, where deliberate underfunding and cynical reliance on benefits, is poisoning an excellent and hard-won approach to enabling young people to remain with their foster carers when they turn 18. We see ambivalence in the lack of staying put for post 18’s in residential care and the empty promises of the care leaver covenant.

Where the “deep-rooted institutional ambivalence” is most obvious is in the refusal of successive ministers and officials to engage properly and meaningfully with care experienced adults. This will be looked back on with regret in years to come and is an egregious oversight that denies us the opportunity to transform the system through co-designing it with those who have that invaluable lived experience.   

We also welcome the spotlight placed by the children’s commissioner on the growing use of private provision in the children’s care system, revealing a fragmented, uncoordinated system which allows companies with complex ownership structures to make significant profit from fostering vulnerable children. It is high time that the Government banned the making of private profit from public care, it is corrosive, and adds nothing to the sector. 

Nothing better illustrates the “deep-rooted institutional ambivalence to the plight of vulnerable children in care” than the fact that ministers are happy to see multi- millionaires further enrich themselves through the childhoods of vulnerable children.

We very much hope that the coming Care Review will address all of the above issues and more. It is vital that the chair is independent , expert and has leeway in their terms of reference. The Care Experienced Community must be both involved in its running and fully engaged at all levels. Lady Hale is the obvious candidate to chair this review.

Andy Elvin is chief executive of TACT.

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