England’s Care Review have published a response to feedback from several organisations, including NYAS, regarding its ‘Case for Change’ initiative.

What is Case for Change?

The Case for Change was originally published in June 2021. This initiative intended to share insights from the care sector to highlight what needs to change in children’s social care. We welcome that some of the points submitted in NYAS’ initial response to the Case for Change appear to have been recognised. However, we feel the Care Review should go further still. 

We are pleased that the review is placing more emphasis on independent advocacy. When The Case for Change was originally published, we believe independent advocacy had been overlooked. It is, sadly, not uncommon for us to encounter care leavers in England who have grown up unaware of their right to advocacy. To combat this, and ensure young people understand their rights and entitlements, NYAS have been calling for an ‘active offer’ of advocacy, as is the statutory requirement in Wales. 

What Do We Mean by Active Offer?

Active offer means that when young people enter care, or at other key moments in their care journey, they are automatically connected with an advocate. This independent professional explains the meaning of advocacy and offers their services as an advocate to the young person.

The Care Review should support the active offer so that every care-experienced child is guaranteed to be aware of their rights, and know how to seek advocacy support when they need it.

Independent Visitors and The Care Review

NYAS also believes that the role of an Independent Visitor (IV) should be further emphasis and considered within The Care Review. 

An IV is a trained volunteer who is uniquely placed to provide care-experienced children and young people with emotional support and stability. IVs offer the chance for children to build a trusting, positive relationship with a reliable adult over time. With stability being a key theme for the review, we are disappointed that our calls for the IV role to be recognised and better supported have not yet been reflected.

Prioritising Mental Health and Wellbeing

Although the mental health section of the Case for Change was vague, the Care Review has acknowledged our view that these issues should be discussed in more detail. 

NYAS continue to urge the Care Review to make mental health and wellbeing a top priority. NYAS have encouraged the review team to support our ‘Looked After Minds’ campaign recommendations, which offer clear ways to help children and young people gain access, understand and navigate mental health services.

No Movement on Unregulated Accommodation

Many respondents to the Case for Change disagreed with the UK Government’s plans for unregulated accommodation to remain for young people in care over the age of 15. 

However, the review’s position continues to endorse the government proposal which will deny supervised and supportive care environments for thousands of 16 and 17-year-olds. We will continue to be at the forefront of campaigning on this issue through our ‘Regulate!’ campaign and support for the sector-wide Keep caring to 18’ campaign. 

Championing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

After taking a leading role in sector-wide efforts for the Care Review to champion children’s rights, we are delighted by the review’s unequivocal support for the UNCRC (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child). 

However, this must be more than just words. We once again urge the Care Review to publicly commit to conducting a ‘Children’s Rights Impact Assessment’ as they formulate and publish their final recommendations. This assessment tool would give meaning to, and provide a test for, the unequivocal commitment to the UNCRC. 

Missing the Point…Again 

There was also no mention of missing children in the original Case for Change. Despite the evidence we shared from our ‘Missing the Point’ campaign, this has still not been rectified. 

A child is reported missing from care every eight minutes in England. Although this may be a symptom of a failing system rather than a cause, the risks and harm are too great to be ignored, which is why missing children in care need to be a priority for the Care Review.

In Spring 2022, the Care Review is due to publish its recommendations to the UK Government for improving children’s social care across England. NYAS will continue working to influence the Care Review on behalf of and alongside the children and young people we support through a range of campaigns.