Dame Denise Platt: 'The life chances of looked-after children have not impoved'

From a speech by the chair of the Commission for Social Care Inspection to the National Making Research Count conference at University College, London

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This is an important time in children's services, when services are having to learn to work together differently in the interests of children and young people. The case of Victoria Climbié and evidence from our inspection and performance activity highlighted the need for reform.

This is an important time in children's services, when services are having to learn to work together differently in the interests of children and young people. The case of Victoria Climbié and evidence from our inspection and performance activity highlighted the need for reform.

In child protection services particularly, we identified poor multi-disciplinary working leading to fragmented, competitive, often low-status services, working to different and sometimes conflicting priorities, with children seen as everyone's responsibility but agencies often unclear about their individual responsibilities.

Although there is improvement, educational attainment and better health outcomes are proving difficult to deliver - and these outcomes rely on better co-operation with education and health services.

Nationally, the picture is poor in tackling the rate of re-offending of looked-after children. The educational attainment of looked- after children falls well short of national targets, and improvements are modest: 9 per cent of looked-after children achieve five good GCSEs, compared to 53 per cent of children overall. Only 53 per cent of looked-after children get at least one GCSE, compared with 95 per cent of all children. And the National Fostering Agency found 70 per cent of looked-after children left school with no formal qualifications.

While there is progress on children being healthy, we have yet to improve significantly the life chances of our looked-after children, which are crucial to enabling them to achieve their potential, play a fuller part in their community and to become economically independent.

There needs to be a better match between individual personal, career and skills development and organisational development and career management systems. We cannot and should not put in train programmes of development and training that strand participants. If we do, we will lose people and their contribution to social care. Not only will we be the losers,the people who use our services will lose out, too.

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