Letter: Children in care

Sir: Andreas Whittam Smith rightly highlights the failings of the residential child care system (25 November), but the solution is not as simple as making residential care a national service, with foster care remaining at local level. Child care services need to be integrated, as children and young people may well need different types of placements at different points in their lives.

One of the real problems is that residential care is still too often seen as the "dumping ground" for young people for whom foster care isn't available. Any service which is seen as second best by those who provide it will inevitably be experienced as second best by those receiving it. Despite the plethora of reports on residential child care, we still haven't got the basics right, in terms of recruitment, training and support of staff. We are nowhere near meeting the targets set down for proportions of trained staff working in care settings and it is questionable whether this can be achieved without additional funding being made available.

We also need to change public attitudes. The attitude that "if you're homeless or in jail, you probably grew up in care" continues to present a negative image of young people themselves, rather than the system which has failed them. Statistics show that you're as likely to end up homeless, or in trouble, or have a major drink problem if you've been in the armed forces as you are if you've been in care.

Children in public care are not someone else's problem, they are everyone's responsibility. A simple test for those providing, purchasing, working in, or inspecting residential child care is to ask the question "Would this service be good enough for my children if I couldn't look after them for any reason?" If the answer is no, then it's not good enough for any children.


Who Cares? Scotland