Cameron announces drive to improve outcomes for children in care

By Neil Puffett

| 08 October 2015

Improving outcomes for children in care will form part of an "all-out assault on poverty" by government, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.

David Cameron said poorly performing children’s services departments will be told to “improve or be taken over”. Picture: Crown Copyright

Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester yesterday, Cameron said children growing up in the care system are “almost guaranteed to live in poverty”.

He pointed to the fact that 84 per cent leave school without five good GCSEs, 70 per cent of prostitutes were once in care, and care leavers are four times more likely to commit suicide than anyone else.

“These children are in our care; we, the state, are their parents – and what are we setting them up for? The dole, the streets, an early grave?,” he said.

“This shames our country and we will put it right.”

Cameron said poorly performing children’s services departments will be told to “improve or be taken over”.

He also indicated a fresh drive to boost the children’s social work profession.

“Just as we got the best graduates teaching at our most difficult schools, let’s get our brightest and best to the frontline of social work,” he said.

Alongside this he said the state must act to also stop children needing to be in care at all.

“When we came to office, the adoption rate in our country was frankly a scandal,” he said.

“It has gone up. Our Adoption Bill will help it increase still further.”

Cameron said the government's attempts to address poverty will also involve tackling the root causes which he listed as homes where no-one works, children growing up in chaos, addiction, mental health problems, abuse, and family breakdown.

“We made a start in the last five years with our troubled families programme. It’s already turned around the lives of over 100,000 families,” he said.

“And do you know one of its central aims? It’s simple: get the adults a job.

“We know in this party that the best route out of poverty is work.”

He said that for the two-thirds of children in poverty who have parents who are in jobs the government will continue to cut taxes for the lowest paid.

The Children’s Services Development Group (CSDG), an alliance of private providers of care and specialist education services for children and young people with complex needs, said it welcomed Cameron’s vow to take over failing children’s services.

“We must enable the innovation and best practice that exists in the independent and voluntary sectors to play a much greater role in tackling poor outcomes,” a spokeswoman said.

“CSDG looks forward to further detail on these plans and engaging and collaborating with central and local government.
 
“In the context of the Spending Review next month, where local authorities are expected to be put under even greater financial pressure, it is imperative that local leaders harness the expertise and investment that is available.

“Until local authorities equally consider the services that exists beyond their own in-house provision, children in care will not have equal opportunities as their peers.”

Last month Cameron identified children’s services as a “standout area” for reform ahead of the autumn Spending Review.

He said government will adopt a “smarter” approach to public services, running the state more like a business.


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