‘Cruel’ legal change affects children in care

The existence of adult social care waiting lists is deeply shocking (Nearly 300,000 on adult social care ‘waiting lists’ in England, 8 September). Children’s social care has also taken a terrible turn this week.

New legislation has come into force which rations care on the basis of age. The law now requires that children in care always receive day‑to-day care and supervision where they live, but only if they are aged 15 and younger. No such guarantee has been given to 16- and 17-year-olds, who are increasingly placed into accommodation without any adult carers and only occasional support.

Fourteen children in care died in properties where they were receiving no care between April 2018 and September 2020; the Department for Education told BBC Newsnight that 53% of the children had taken their own lives. We know that others have suffered serious abuse and exploitation and that children feel unwanted and alone. Boys and children from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities will be hardest hit, because they are already disproportionately housed by local authorities in cheaper, non-care settings.

By law, children must continue their education or training until the age of 18, yet here we have government ministers deciding vulnerable teenagers can fend for themselves. Care leavers we know have described this legal change as vicious, cruel and heartbreaking.
Carolyne Willow Director, Article 39, David Graham National director, The Care Leavers’ Association, Isabelle Kirkham Reclaim Care




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