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Children in Care

Question for Department for Education

UIN 128260, tabled on 23 February 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what support his Department is providing to children who live in children's homes.

Answered on

3 March 2022

Children’s social care in Northern Ireland is a transferred power, making it a devolved matter. The answer reflects the position in England.

Children’s homes provide care for some of the most vulnerable young people unable to live with their families. This includes children who have suffered abuse or neglect, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, children on remand, and children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, disabilities, special educational needs, or mental illnesses.

Local authorities have primary responsibility for the children in their care. They have a formal role as ‘corporate parents’. Their responsibilities include identifying which children should come into the care system, ensuring there is sufficient accommodation locally to meet the range of needs of looked after children in their area, safeguarding and promoting their wellbeing, ensuring that children’s education and health needs are met, and supporting care leavers.

The government provides funding and support to local authorities to help them meet all their duties to looked after children, including those in children’s homes. As well as providing safe, excellent quality care, the government wants to ensure that all homes can meet each child's individual needs and enable them to achieve the best possible outcomes.

For example, it has ensured that all looked after children have top priority in school admissions, and all local authorities must appoint a virtual school head with a statutory duty to promote the educational achievement of all children in their care. The government has funded eight Staying Close pilots to test an enhanced offer for young people leaving residential care. Additionally, the government will invest £140 million to introduce new national standards for unregulated provisions for older children.

Although we are making progress, the sector still faces challenges. The independent review of children’s social care commenced in March 2021, with Josh MacAlister as Chair. It is looking at how the government can make the system work better.

The review is taking a fundamental look at the needs, experiences, and outcomes of the children supported by children’s social care. It is drawing on a broad range of expertise and prioritising hearing the voices of children, young people, and adults that have received the help or support of a social worker, or who have been looked after. The review is looking at the whole system of support, safeguarding, protection and care, and the child’s journey into and out of that system. We expect it to point to new directions in children’s social care and directly improve the lives of vulnerable children.