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NCERCC 2024 Election Special – What Can Bring The Higher Level Needs Of Some Children In Care Into Parliamentary Minds?

NCERCC 2024 Election special – what can bring the higher level needs of some children in care into Parliamentary minds?

Does the evidenced exclusion of higher level needs of some children in care in the current election reveal they have fallen out of collective Parliamentary minds? What is to be done?

In this election period The Guardian newspaper has been prominent and consistent in its championing of children in care. A weekday editorial about the need but complexity in creating a plan for children in care followed an Observer James Mumby article naming a ‘moral scandal’ the situation of there being too few places for children with vulnerable high level co-occurring needs.

A previous Children’s Commissioner (Anne Longfield) reported the public wanted the needs of these children to be met.

As far as NCERCC is aware these Guardian pieces are the only media coverage of children in care in this pre-election period.

The manifestos say as little as possible, nothing substantial, no plan.

Fully costed they cannot be.

Firstly, there are omissions in the projected policy and financial planning of expenditure on children’s social care that, given rising demand and cost, local authorities identify as a major threat to solvency.

Secondly, the manifestos and policies are situated in the ‘relationships matter’ Care Review conclusions. These have been referenced by political parties as designed to bring down numbers in care, that early intervention will rapidly and dramatically reduce care numbers.

Relationships are where we start from, to which we must necessarily bring skilled, informed, experienced, professional knowledge and practice.

The Care Review omitted thinking on such preparation and delivery of such intensive responses and costs to meet high level need.

Thirdly, there has been no audit of need. We do not know the extent of all the unmet needs nationally. We do not know how they co-occur. If we find they are higher and more numerous maybe this is a reason why we do not tolerate it in our consciousness, and we have avoided this vital work? Might another reason be that we have been working to a budget rather than establishing what the budget might need to be?

An audit of need must be the first action for an incoming government.

All unmet need will be aggregated to inform local, regional, and national strategic planning. We will be planning knowing the prevalence of needs to be met. We can then plan the response – what do we want and where do we need it. It is on this basis we will have evidenced budget setting.

It is going to take a programme of work over several years to achieve what is required.

In recent discussions it seems assumed we know and have all we need, all that is required it ‘flick the switch.’  This is far from the case. We must create the knowledge, practice, and personnel resources to create the homes that will be needed. This is not solely residential child care, but also forensic and clinical psychology, child and adolescent psychiatry, therapies, education. The programme will be a lengthy list, it will need to be intensive. Importantly we need Parliamentarians and policy makers who ‘get it’.

Note to incoming Minister for Children and Secretary of State for Education.

A rapid Westminster rethink is needed.

What is required is a completely different task to that of the DfE Market Interventions Advisory Group. The necessary task is to understand the needs that are to be met and establish what the budget might need to be in order that the needs will be met, programmatically over several years.

A theory of change is needed. The Minister for Children must advocate for the necessary funding and drive that change.

Political parties are basing their ideas of the future on a faulty analysis and premise.

The levels of poverty and deprivation will take at least 2 Parliaments to begin to be addressed.

The needs arising by these two factors may be alleviated at a younger age if the community is rich in resources, unlikely in a situation of imposed financial stringency.

It is importantly to know that this is often a different group than those older who experience trauma, abuse, exploitation. It is clear there will be a continued demand for intensive expensive services.

Does the evidenced exclusion of higher level needs of some children in care in the current election reveal they have fallen out of collective Parliamentary minds? 

Compassion is inclusive, demanding, aspirational, ambitious, taxing. It takes courage to face how awful things really are for some children, and then fortitude to face the electorate.