Renaming 'corporate parenting' among steps to improve care system

Fiona Simpson
Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Refining the idea of “corporate parenting” is integral to helping care-experienced people feel at home in their community, MPs say.

Steve McCabe is chair of the APPG for looked-after children and care leavers. Picture: Parliament UK
Steve McCabe is chair of the APPG for looked-after children and care leavers. Picture: Parliament UK

Increased support for care leavers and new legislation to reduce out of area placements must also be introduced as part of a major reform of the children's social care system, according to a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for looked-after children and care leavers.

The report, which reveals the results of a spotlight inquiry on the care system, will feed into the upcoming Care Review

Steve McCabe, chair of the APPG and Labour MP for Selly Oak, said: “Care-experienced young people often report feeling less connected to their communities – dislocated from where they may have been before and stigmatised where they may be now.”

The report states that “‘corporate parenting’ as it is currently understood and delivered often fails to appropriately deliver the relationship-building young people want and deserve”.

MPs are calling for the phrase to be scrapped and for local authority duties to children in care to be refined to focus on “the formation of trusted, lasting relationships”.

Councillors should be given more responsibility for an area of children’s services, for example a foster care agency, children’s home or independent visiting service to “encourage stronger links” with their area’s care system.

Meanwhile, the Care Leaver Covenant should be renamed and redeveloped on a national level to offer “a comprehensive set of commitments from the state towards all care-experienced people”.

The APPG is also calling for a national campaign to reduce stigma faced by care-experienced people in their communities alongside the reform of leaving care offers across England “to reduce the cliff-edges of support and community disconnection typically experienced by young adults at ages 18 , 21 and 25”.

“Serious reform, including a consideration of additional primary legislation and binding targets, is required to reduce the number of children being placed outside of their local area. “Existing commissioning and procurement practices should be properly scrutinised and new safeguards developed to tackle this issue properly,” the report adds.

The inquiry aims to “to help improve the experiences of children in care and care leavers of the communities they are part of focused on relationships, identity, corporate parenting and stigma.”

Research from charity Become which fed into the report found that 7,230 children moved more than three times in 2021 and 16,720 children were placed more than 20 miles from home.

Some 2,230 care leavers aged 17-21 are living in accommodation that their own local authority thinks is unsuitable for them, research shows.

McCabe added: “Navigating messy concepts of identity and belonging is often even more difficult for care-experienced people given the instability, inconsistent relationships, and lack of agency experienced by many before, during and after their time in care. 

“Recent years have seen a sharp increase in the number of children living outside of their local area, complicated by a deepening postcode lottery of support and provision, and continued public misunderstanding about what it means to be in or leaving care. 

“Any successful review of children’s social care must consider the power of community, and the time for change is very much now.”

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