News CALLS TO CHANGE DEBATE
A MAJOR new investigation by the Coventry Telegraph has revealed the challenges faced by children in care across Coventry and Warwickshire.
Exclusive analysis of local data from the Department for Education (DfE) shows the hurdles that children looked after by local authorities in the region have to overcome throughout their time in care – and beyond.
The figures show that young people in the care system in Coventry and Warwickshire are three or four times more likely to commit crime, as well as having difficulties such as emotional and behavioural issues and problems with substance abuse.
Only 50 of the 620 children currently in care in Coventry will be adopted
Drugs or alcohol abuse can become a major problem for children looked after by the council
Youngsters in care are much more likely to end up in trouble with the law – this reaches as high as four times more likely in Warwickshire.
Natasha Finlayson, chief executive of Become – a national charity for children in care and young care leavers – said such outcomes were usually a product of both a child’s troubled background, and the experience of being in care itself.
She said: “Every child in care has experienced childhood trauma, such as abuse or neglect within their family, extreme family dysfunction or parental substance abuse.
“What you see is that the care system works to keep children safe, and takes them away from that environment, but it doesn’t give them the emotional support that they need to deal with that trauma.
“In fact, the care system compounds that trauma by repeatedly moving these children around, between placements. They are forced to adapt to life with strangers again and again, and these multiple experiences of instability, feelings of rejection, not fitting in and abandonment, can result in emotional and psychological problems, affect their ability to concentrate and learn in school, and can present as behaviour difficulties.” The statistics from the DfE show that of the 620 children in care in Coventry, only 50 (eight per cent) will be adopted. This means that around 570 of those will remain in the care system. And those youngsters left in care are at a greater risk of becoming embroiled in crime with seven per cent convicted or cautioned for a crime, compared to two per cent of all children in Coventry. Drugs or alcohol misuse is also more likely for kids in care with seven per cent of children looked after by the council having a substance problem.
Other standout figures include: 13 per cent of children in care in the city have gone missing; 37 per cent have possible behavioural and emotional problems; 38 per cent of those leaving care aged 17 or 18 are not in education, training or employment; and 59 per cent of care leavers aged 19-21 are not in education, training or employment.
Cllr Ed Ruane, Coventry City Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, said: “First and foremost these are Coventry kids and should be viewed as our Coventry kids.
“It’s correct that our children have experienced significant trauma, such as abuse or neglect in early childhood and the repercussions are life-changing.
“In Coventry we’ve increased our number of foster carers, reduced the number of placements, increased the number of care leavers who go off to study at university or take up an apprenticeship within the council. What really needs to change is the tone of the debate across society when discussing our Coventry kids. “All too often, once children enter the care system they are quickly viewed as the problem. So for example this article is quick to highlight the crime rate committed by children in care, but totally ignores the crime rate of children in care being victims of crime. “I’d like to use this opportunity as a ‘call to action’ to all our major employers in the city. I’m extremely proud that this Labour council has a policy in place which allocates a certain number of apprenticeships specifically to our care leavers, and I’m hoping other major employers will share our ambition and do the very same. “We’re in early conversations with Severn Trent