The two-tier system of care for young people must be brought to an end, Alex Cunningham has said, and all children in care must receive equal and compassionate treatment.
Labour’s Stockton North MP was speaking after pledging his support to the Every Child Leaving Care Matters campaign to stop discrimination against children in residential children’s homes and to support all children and young people in care to 21 years of age.
Since December 2013, children in foster care have been supported to remain with their foster carers until the age of 21. However, children in residential care were not included in these changes, despite the residential sector often caring for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged young people.
Every Child Leaving Care Matters have since been campaigning to end the system which contributes to an underclass of children who have to leave care at the age of 18. The campaign was consulted by Sir Martin Narey as part of his recent review into residential care which forwards proposals for children in residential care to stay in touch or stay close to the primary care staff they had grown to trust, and recommended that the organisation assist the Department for Education in developing the reforms.
“I am very pleased to support the great work being done by the Every Child Leaving Care Matters team. They may be a small group of volunteers but they are making a big difference to improve the lives of children who live in residential care.
“I am pleased to see that those children are now a step closer to being offered the same rights as those who grow up in foster care. But we must keep the pressure on until the system is fair for every child leaving care, and that means allowing them to “stay put” until age 21.”
Ed Nixon, Chair of Every Child Leaving Care Matters, said: “We welcome Sir Martin’s report and are delighted he recommends that our experiences, along with those of thousands of care leavers, are properly considered. His report recognises that it is vital children don’t just feel abandoned by those they have come to know and trust as soon as they turn 18, and while we would prefer all care leavers to be able to choose to “stay put” until they are 21, we support a variation of the “staying close” principle.”