‘Corporate parenting’ must be stepped up to provide the right services for children in care in Wales
Children in care across Wales are being let down because organisations aren't recognising their 'corporate parenting responsibilities' according to the National Assembly's Public Accounts Committee.
There are nearly 6,000 children in care in Wales, twice as many as there were in 1997
While the majority of support is provided and measured through social care services, the committee found it difficult to establish how much money and resources was being provided through other services.
The police, youth offending teams, education and housing services all play a role in supporting children in the care system but the committee's significant challenge identifying funding spent on this by these organisations highlighted the lack of transparency and accountability for this spend.
The Committee concluded this was unacceptable as there is a genuine collective responsibility for 'corporate parenting' across the full range of public bodies.
The Committee endorses a 'preventative spending' approach which would mean more funds allocated to high quality services to provide as much support as is needed early on.
Investing in high quality services at the outset can reduce the potential need for expensive services in the future such as tackling poor adult mental health and offending behaviour.
High quality services can also reduce the risk of care experienced children having their own children taken into care later on, at significant cost to the public purse as well as a devastating impact on families.
"When children are unable to live with their birth families for whatever reason, it is vital that the care provided to them by public services is high quality, joined-up and tailored to their individual needs," said Nick Ramsay AM, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee.
"As we hope birth parents would, 'corporate parents' must take seriously their responsibilities to meet the holistic needs of these children and use their resources in the child's best interest.
"Care experienced children are often the most vulnerable children and public services must provide them with the specialist support they need.
Throughout this inquiry we have kept at the forefront of our minds that this is about real children and real experiences.
"Whilst we are clear that many professionals are dedicated and provide high quality services under difficult circumstances it is also obvious that services for care experienced children are under significant pressure and face serious challenges."
The Committee makes 12 recommendations in its report, including:
that the Welsh Government commission a review of spending on looked after children across the range of services areas involved in their care for example education, housing and Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service. This is essential to ensure a comprehensive picture of the money invested in supporting this group;
that the Welsh Government undertake a comparative analysis on the variance of spend per looked after child between local authorities to build an information base around variance of cost to drive best practice, and;
all care-experienced children are routinely made aware of their right to an advocate and provided with clear information about how to access the range of available advocacy services. This should be monitored by the Welsh Government and incorporated into the indicators for the Ministerial Advisory Group.
Supporting children in the care system is a key area the Public Accounts Committee will be examining throughout this Assembly. The latest report will be sent to the Welsh Government for its response.