Interview with the Minister
Tim Laughton, Minister for Children and Families
The Handle with Care project gives children in care in Reading a chance to speak for themselves in this exhibition and on BBC Radio Berkshire. Minister for Children and Families Tim Loughton was interviewed in the radio programmes and had this to say:
First I’d like to say that it’s a really good job that Radio Berkshire have done in highlighting the issue of fostering, and Fostering Fortnight is an important way of raising profile. In the last year we’ve done quite a lot for children in the care system and this involves dealing with and listening to children themselves. We’re keen on promoting the Children in Care Councils up and down the country where children can come together with others and say “this isn’t right” locally and to get a better deal for children in care.
Permission for Sleepovers
Foster parents need to know that getting permission is a big myth. It is really important for children who find themselves in the care system through no fault of their own to have as normal and conventional a family life as possible. It is a nonsense that foster parents should have to get special permission for children to have a haircut or for sleepovers. Special permission is not in law and not something I’ve put out. If a Local Authority is telling you that, tell them to come and speak to me. And only if there are very special reasons – and these should be set down at the outset – should they need to get special permission for these things. Otherwise, for goodness sake, get their hair cut, you don’t need to get someone crb checked for your children to spend a sleepover.
Turnover of social workers
Having a big turnover of social workers is the worst thing that can happen and it is happening routinely because we have a crisis in the social work profession. We have big vacancies. In parts of the country it is 20% and we have too many social workers chasing their tails with too many cases. It’s got worse since the Baby P situation a few years ago. We’ve got a very large number of children in the care system and it’s being stretched. We’ve set up a review and we have a report which I’m looking at to see how we can move forward in practice. It’s become a bit too much about protecting the system. It should start with centring everything on the child.
About 40% of children who reach the age of 16 leave care and they go out and fend for themselves. I’ve got a 16 year old and I don’t think he can go out into the big wide world even with all his support networks. Yet we’re expecting a lot of particularly vulnerable kids to go out and fend for themselves and it’s just not appropriate. And it’s a false economy because they are going to fall by the wayside.
We’ve got Staying Put Pilots
This is a scheme where children can be supported in care for longer, flexibly. Some kids are more resourceful, but they need a safety net, a support mechanism, if things go pear shaped. I want to expand these experiences and put more money into doing that.