Below, we’ve outlined what we wanted to achieve with this COVID-19 campaign, and the final outcomes of our efforts.
What Did We Want to Achieve?
Alongside over 40 other charities and organisations in our sector, we campaigned to make sure that the protection and support of care-experienced children and young people was a priority as national lockdowns continued across England and Wales in 2020.
We submitted open letters addressed to the UK and Welsh Government on the 27th of March, 2020. With signatories from across the sector, we called for:
- Access to technology for care-experienced children and young people.
- Access to independent remote advocacy for children and young people living in accommodation not subject to checks, and those within a mental health setting.
- Access to technology for care-experienced children and young people, as well as those with parent contact arrangements.
- For care-experienced children and young people to have clear information about rights and entitlements championed by the Children’s Commissioner.
- The offer of an independent Return Interview to any care-experienced child or young person that goes missing, and the avoidance of criminalisation.
- Commitment to do everything possible in assessing the needs of care-experienced young people moving to adult care.
- For the English Department for Education and Welsh Government to set out measures to safeguard children and young people living in unregulated accommodation during the crisis.
You can read our letter to the UK Government regarding England here, and the letter to the First Minister of Wales here.
In Wales, NYAS Cymru worked closely with the Welsh Government, the Education Committee and Children’s Commissioner to protect children and young people during COVID-19. We produced a detailed report into the effect of COVID-19 on care-experienced children and young people across Wales.
In England, we received a response to our open letter from the Minister for Children and Families on 22nd April 2020, providing reassurance that protecting children in vulnerable situations continued to be the UK Government’s top priority throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
I don’t have a routine to keep me afloat. I feel like I’ve lost myself. I don’t sleep, eat; I have no friends to talk to. In education I was able to see some friends but it’s not the same.
Young Person, Age 16, Living with Foster Carers
On the 24th of April 2020, a new statutory instrument (SI 445) came into force in England – the Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020. The statutory instrument removed or diluted 65 key protections for care-experienced children and young people. NYAS were not informed of any changes despite our ongoing correspondence with the UK Government or the work we do as a children’s rights charity.
The amendments meant that:
- An independent six-month review for each child in care during COVID-19 was no longer mandatory.
- Social workers no longer had to check in with children in care every six weeks, but instead were told to do so ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’.
- The requirement for an adoption or fostering panel was removed.
- Decisions of whether foster placements were suitable were now based on the assessment of providers.
These changes affected the rights of over 70,000 children and young people in or entering care in England throughout the pandemic. NYAS and the #ScrapSI445 group sought to defend the rights of care-experienced children and young people during COVID-19. NYAS sent countless letters, published reports, responded to consultations, and supported Article 39’s judicial review action against the UK Government. A complete timeline of our campaigning activity can be seen here.
On 24th of November 2020, the Court of Appeal gave a landmark ruling which found that Statutory Instrument 445 (SI 445) had been introduced unlawfully. The victory upholds the rights of care-experienced children and young people in times of uncertainty.
Our Director of Policy, Ben Twomey reported on the Court of Appeal’s decision.
NYAS will never stop campaigning on behalf of care-experienced children and young people.
You can explore NYAS’ full range of current campaigns, as well as our previous campaigns, to see the impact our efforts are having on policy and legislation for children and young people in care across England and Wales.
If you want to support our campaigning efforts, or have an experience you want to share with us, feel free to get in touch with our friendly NYAS team.
Got More Questions?
If you have further questions about this campaign, get in touch with us and our Policy and Research team will be happy to help.Send Us An Email
Rights and Entitlements
There’s lots of legislation, regulation and guidance which explains what rights and entitlements you have because you are living in care. It’s important for you to know your rights and entitlements so you know when you are not being treated properly.
NYAS is working with the National Children’s Advocacy Consortium and the National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers (NAIRO), on a national campaign to strengthen children and young people’s advocacy services.