Monday, 3 October 2011

If I were Prime Minister: changing the care system

Last week, we heard what Matt would do if he were elected Prime Minister. Today, we speak to Kirby, 21, who spent around 15 years in the care system. She has seen both the good and the bad, and here shares some thoughts on how she would make improvements if she were PM.

“Having been in the care system for the best part of 15 out of my 21 years of life, I'd like to say I've come to note both its advantages and its disadvantages. Over recent years there has been a lot of recognition for children in care and care leavers. Some of the support I have experienced involves care grants or awards offered for achievements of education; care grants offered to aid a young person in setting up their own accommodation; a personal advisor to guide the young person throughout the leaving care period; and support until the age of 24, as long as the young person remains in education.

“From Ofsted's and social services' perspective thorough paperwork constitutes an efficient system in theory. But in practice it’s quite the contrary. Even though social workers have a lot of paper work, a crucial part of their job consists of dealing with the child that has been entrusted to their care.

“Paperwork is not an adequate excuse to neglect practical duties. From my personal experience it made me feel like I was just another case to social services. I didn’t feel like they cared. All I was asking for was to be treated like I was a human being.

“Another issue that I didn’t like was trying to maintain regular contact with a social worker. Often it would take me two weeks to get through to anybody, and when I did get through the excuse I was given was that there was a shortage of social workers. Irrespective of whether there are enough social workers, they still have a duty to maintain constant contact with that particular child.

“Children and young peoples’ views and voices are often overlooked. That made me feel undermined. I felt like I was being talked at as opposed to being talked to. Decisions were made for me by a group of professional strangers. I was told that social workers wanted to hear my views, and then everything I said was completely ignored. So I thought, what was the point in asking me if they were going to take an antagonistic approach either way??

“An ideal model of the care system would consist of a young person speaking, and actually being listened to, and reasons given where the child’s best interests override feelings. An ideal model would consist of an organised system where social workers were given a time limit in which to contact a young person back. An ideal model of the care system would ensure that the young person is given as much advice as possible in helping them continue their journey beyond leaving care. Finally, an ideal model of the care system would include informing a child about all of their entitlements at every change of circumstance, throughout their life.

“This is just a few of my personal future reforms, but for now they may remain just that. An ideal.”

Thanks to Voice for their help with this blog post.

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