Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, has published her second Stability Index, an annual report which tracks the experiences of children in care.
Whilst the report confirms that many children in care are receiving stable and consistent care, it shows for the second year running, that thousands of children are still ‘pinging’ around the system, changing homes, schools or social worker. Statistics gathered indicate that almost 2,400 children changed home, school and social worker over the last twelve months and, looking at data across two years, over 3,000 children had to move home four or more times. Over three years, around 2,500 children moved home five or more times.
Older children – especially those entering care from the age of 12 to 15 – appear to be at most at risk of instability and may need extra support to prevent placements breaking down.
The report also indicates that children at poor-performing schools are more likely to experience a school move, and less likely to move to a better school. By comparison, those in good schools are less likely to move, and when they do it is usually to another good school.
Anne Longfield commented:
“Every day I hear from ‘pinball kids’ who are being pinged around the care system when all they really want is to be settled and to get on with normal life. These children need stability, yet far too many are living unstable lives, in particular children entering care in their early teens. This puts them at greater risk of falling through the gaps in the education system and opens them up to exploitation by gangs or to abuse.
“It is very concerning that the number of children having to move around the system has hardly changed over the last year. Over one in five children in care are not in the good or outstanding schools they should be, and I am worried that the system has given up on the hundreds of children bouncing around from one poor school to another. I want all local authorities to make reducing instability a priority and to measure it. I would also like to see Ofsted assessing the stability of children in care as part of their inspections and for the Department for Education to start asking for data on this in their annual returns from Local Authorities.
“The care system does work for many thousands of children but our ambition should be for every child growing up in care to have the same chances to live happy, healthy and rewarding lives as any other child. We put that at risk if we are expecting some children to constantly change school and home.”
Read the full report here