This week, the Children’s Commission for England – Dame Rachel de Souza, released a report based on the findings of The Big Ask survey titled The Big Ask: The Big Answer. More than half-a-million young people in England took part in the survey, of which 71% of those aged 9 to 17 and 94% of kids aged 6 to 8 in England said they are happy.
The survey is the biggest of its kind in the world, and asked young people between the ages of 4 – 17 over six weeks in April and May 2021 how they feel about their life, future and world.
NYAS welcomes the Children’s Commissioner placing an emphasis on listening to children. This aligns with our work to prioritise and empower the voice of young people.
How Will The Big Ask Impact Children in Care?
The Big Ask received 3,800 responses from children in care who shared their views and opinions on the topics outlined above. This report also includes specific findings in relation to the responses for children in care for each topic, and has a specific section exploring the general findings amongst the responses of children and young people in the care system.
NYAS are pleased to see an emphasis on listening to and empowering the voices and opinions of children in care. However, it’s worth noting that children in care account for just 0.7% of The Big Ask respondents. 3,800 children in care were included, but the report itself mentions approximately 100,000 children are part of the care system every year. As a result, only 4% of children (approx.) in care are represented in this report.
The Big Ask: The Big Answer doesn’t mention any additional steps taken to reach children in care, those who may not have easy access to the internet, or those who struggle to engage with school. NYAS hopes that any future research and reports from the Children’s Commissioner office will bear these children in mind and take extra steps to ensure their voices are heard too.
The Big Ask: The Big Answer details three policy recommendations that would improve the experience of children in care:
- Immediate investment in better residential children’s homes for children. This would enable more children to get a good‑quality home, near to their original home and with high‑quality therapeutic provision provided.
- Measures that could be taken to improve children in care’s access to mental health support and better in‑school help. This includes greater more mental health professionals working within the care system and wider use of trauma informed practice.
- Immediate improvements to care‑leavers support, including reforms to Universal Credit.
NYAS welcomes the recommendations for improved investment for children’s homes, increased focus on mental health, and increased support for care leavers as these are crucial for the improved life opportunities for children in care.
However, the recommendations outlined above for children in care are fewer in quantity, and less specific than the recommendations for the other topics, such as family and school. Whilst other policy recommendations are SMART and targeted, the policy recommendations for children in care do not include any definitive, practical actions or suggestions.
Instead, The Big Ask: The Big Answer highlights the importance of the report for the Independent Care Review. NYAS hopes that the Independent Care Review board use this report to identify key areas for change and improvement across the social care system.
The Children’s Commissioner’s report does note, however, that the suggestions above are short-term recommendations that could improve the provision for children in care before the Independent Care Review is completed. With this in mind, it would have been beneficial to have increased detail regarding the ‘immediate improvements’ and ‘measures that could be taken’ referred to in the policy recommendations.
The Big Ask recognises what NYAS already know: children are passionate, resilient, proactive, moral and ready for change. Children and young people across the country are clearly ready to be listened to, but listening needs to be followed by targeted, specific and impactful actions. Children in care need active, detailed policy change that identify flaws in the system and implement targeted improvements to enact change, ensuring that they face no limits.
Read the full Big Answer report here