News CALLS TO CHANGE DE­BATE

Nuneaton Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - All too of­ten, once chil­dren en­ter the care sys­tem they are quickly viewed as a prob­lem.

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

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