Local Authority: Corporate Parent or ‘Lifelong Champion’?

Every Local Authority is obligated to act as a ‘Lifelong Champion’ towards Care Experienced people, regardless of age but how many Council’s actually do that and how many even know about it?

The Statutory guidance for Local Authorities, clinical commissioning groups and NHS England (March 2015) states that:

As corporate parents, those involved in providing local authority services for the children they look after should have the same high aspirations and ensure the children receive the care and support they need in order to thrive. 

And: The corporate parenting principles intend to ensure that all councils have high ambitions for the children in their care.

But how many Councils actually apply their ‘Corporate Parenting’ principles as well as they should? Which means to the highest standards and in a flexible manner as the legislation requires of them? We all know far too many stories of Care Leavers who are badly let down by their so called ‘Corporate Parent’. But they are not alone.

A Local Authority maybe required to operate as a ‘good parent’ but the Care Leavers’ charter from the Department for Education goes even further; in that it refers to the importance of the Local Authority acting as a ‘Lifelong Champion’.

To be a lifelong champion: 

We will do our best to help you break down barriers encountered when dealing with other agencies. We will work together with the services you need, including housing, benefits, colleges and universities, employment providers and health services to help you establish yourself as an independent individual. We will treat you with courtesy and humanity whatever your age when you return to us for advice or support. We will help you to be the driver of your life and not the passenger. We will point you in a positive direction and journey alongside you at your pace. We will trust and respect you. We will not forget about you. We will remain your supporters in whatever way we can, even when our formal relationship with you has ended.

I have yet to learn of any Local Authority acting in this way; any local iniatives that actively support those who have left care but who are not ‘recent’ Care Leavers. And I have yet to hear of any older Care Experienced person who is still in touch with their ex Local Authority or Council to ‘keep them updated about their lives’ as any family might continue to do so over the decades. Who exactly at the Council would we get in touch with – for advice and support – anyway? And how might they go about helping us to be the driver of our lives?

I am of a generation of Care Experienced people who grew up in care and left when NO support was available. Many of my fellow, older CEPs have struggled through decades, most carrying severe trauma with them. Back in our childhod there was a failure of ‘corporate parenting’ by Local Authorities on an industrial scale. Systemic failings in the procedures and processes for child care and child protection which led to large-scale abuse and neglect of children in almost all of our children’s homes and placements between 1950 and 1995 (when the bulk were closed down).  Alongside the sexual abuse of boys and girls, institutional brutality and neglect, inhumane punishments, racism, dehumanising attitudes, separation of siblings, witnessing abuse of others – all these were prevalent.

As the UNICEF global Advocate Benjamin Perks has so eloquently put it. Members of the Care Experienced prior to the 1989 Children’s Act were victims of the greatest human rights violation. The onus on the Local Authority to support us through our lives after care never, ever happened. But then we never even got the apology so many of us sought either.

Every Local Authority needs to accept the responsibility – not just for its current crop of Care Leavers – but also for the older care generations it has routinely ignored and forgotten.

The interest in and the emphasis on our older CEPs is evident in Ofted’s recent survey; seeking data on our over 35’s. And in a new UCL-led report, based on research documenting people’s lives until their 40’s.

The Report published as part of the Nuffield Foundation funded ‘Looked-after children grown up project, shows up very notable widening health and social  inequalities. That early death rates rose from being 40% higher in 1971 to 360% higher in 2001 for adults who had spent time in care. Professor Sacked concluded: “Children who have to go into care are already hugely vulnerable. Our report suggests that over time they remain vulnerable compared with those who are brought up by their parents. We need to do much more to protect and support them in a way that makes their path through life safe, healthier and happier.

The fact is that many of or older care experienced community – some now in extreme old age – have struggled on in isolation with intractable emotional, psychological and health related issues over many, many years. And many within our community have resolutely refused to engage with Council Support Services who they see as the enemy. Their children are hugely disadvantaged too; lacking the same levls of support that children in he care system can lay claim to through eduction, health and employment ‘levelling up’ initiatives.

Our Local Authorities – who broadcast their proactive support for every generation of Care Leaver (which is questionable) – are guilty of abandoning generations of care experienced people who live daily with loss, anger, painful memories, as well as stigma and prejudice.

Acting as a Lifelong Guardian may come too late for the lifetimes of most of them but should be implimented immediately and a programme of outreach and enagagement put in to place staright away. These are adult lives that have been lived largely in conflict with Local Authorities by our brave veteran CEP heroes who as they grow into old age deserve to live a happy and positive life – for their children and grandchildren also – who, despite best efforts remain defined often by a traumatic and unresolved past. 

Acting as a Lifelong Guardians may come too late for the lifetimes of most of our elderly CEPs in the community but all the same it should be implimented immediately and a programme of outreach and enagagement also put in to place staright away. So many of our community lies ‘hidden’ after decades of a practise called ‘transition to independence’ which our Local Authorities have all subscribed to; wherin those of us who identify as Care Experienced are encouraged to assimilate into the wider community.

This is a practise that I believe has run its course. And that the vast amount of resources applied to driving yong people twoards so called ‘independence’ would be better placed into fully supporting Care Leavers regardless of their age (as most parents do) and throughout their lifetime if needed. So that their lives are not spent in conflict with Local Authorities. So that their children get the support they require. And that thier futures aren’t defind – as our brave veteran CEP heroes currently are – by a parentless, traumatic and unresolved past. 

Posted in CEP

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