CHIL­DREN’S SO­CI­ETY

Glossop Advertiser - - News - Rob Jack­son, Area Di­rec­tor, The Chil­dren’s So­ci­ety

LATE teenage years can be an awk­ward age for young peo­ple as they ap­proach adult­hood and seek greater in­de­pen­dence.

As a dad of three I may well have these tri­als and tribulations ahead.

But I know from our work at The Chil­dren’s So­ci­ety that this age can be even more dif­fi­cult for vul­ner­a­ble teenagers.

Our new re­port, Crum­bling Fu­tures, high­lights how help too of­ten falls short for 58,000 young peo­ple aged 16 and 17 who are not in care but are still des­ig­nated as ‘chil­dren in need’ by councils. This means that with­out sup­port their health and de­vel­op­ment may suf­fer.

While is­sues may not yet have es­ca­lated to the ex­tent that it is no longer con­sid­ered to be safe or in their best in­ter­ests to re­main with their fam­ily, they may still face many chal­lenges.

These can be dif­fer­ent to those faced by younger chil­dren, rang­ing from men­tal health is­sues and sub­stance mis­use to child sex­ual ex­ploita­tion, poverty and home­less­ness.

Na­tion­ally, one in five ‘chil­dren in need’ are aged 16-17, which means there could be around 3,600 young peo­ple in this po­si­tion in Greater Manch­ester.

The re­port - part of our Se­ri­ously Awk­ward cam­paign, which aims to im­prove sup­port for 16-17-year-olds - says pro­fes­sion­als some­times con­sider these chil­dren as old enough to cope, which we know isn’t al­ways the case.

We have con­cerns that sup­port of­ten ends too soon for those on child in need and child pro­tec­tion plans, cut­ting them off from vi­tal ser­vices such as fam­ily me­di­a­tion, ther­apy, and sup­port with is­sues like drug and al­co­hol mis­use and go­ing miss­ing.

Data from councils which re­sponded to our en­quiries shows that nearly four in 10 child in need plans for 16-17-yearolds lasted for less than three months in 2016/17.

While prob­lems do not mag­i­cally dis­ap­pear when chil­dren turn 18, any sup­port usu­ally van­ishes com­pletely be­cause there is no re­quire­ment for councils to sup­port most young adults.

Councils don’t rou­tinely keep tabs on what hap­pens to these young peo­ple as adults, but in­for­ma­tion from a small num­ber of au­thor­i­ties sug­gests that they are less likely than most other chil­dren to ac­cess ed­u­ca­tion, em­ploy­ment or train­ing, and more likely to claim ben­e­fits and face home­less­ness.

We’re also se­ri­ously con­cerned that some young peo­ple in real need aren’t get­ting any help at all.

Although more than half of 16-17-year-olds re­ferred had been ac­cepted as a child in need, one in seven of all young peo­ple re­ferred were not even as­sessed for sup­port.

So, what can be done to ad­dress this wor­ry­ing sit­u­a­tion?

The Gov­ern­ment’s re­cently an­nounced re­view aimed at im­prov­ing ed­u­ca­tional out­comes for chil­dren in need is wel­come, but we would like min­is­ters to con­sider specif­i­cally how 16-17-year-olds can be bet­ter sup­ported, and to ex­am­ine all as­pects of their lives.

Councils and other or­gan­i­sa­tions should be given the re­sources they need to ad­dress health, hous­ing, em­ploy­ment and safe­guard­ing needs - with con­sid­er­a­tion given to ex­tend­ing key ser­vices of­fer­ing help with these is­sues to the age of 25.

We want all 16-17-yearolds re­ferred to councils to re­ceive an assess­ment with a fo­cus on risks, men­tal health, fam­ily re­la­tion­ships and risk of poverty.

Child in need and child pro­tec­tion plans should last un­til at least a young per­son’s 18th birth­day to en­sure there is sus­tained sup­port.

While ex­tra gov­ern­ment in­vest­ment will be needed, hav­ing to tackle prob­lems like men­tal health in adult­hood when they are more deeply in­grained may be even more costly.

And it’s hard to put a price on sup­port which will help young peo­ple over­come chal­lenges and se­cure a hap­pier fu­ture. ●

Rob Jack­son

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