What parent views their child between 16 and 18 as willing and able to look after themselves for the rest of their lives without ever returning for advice, financial help, a meal, to wash their clothes, to talk, to be near the radiators, to meet a relative or to smell home. Independence is relative to a point of reference. This is the nature of family. You have a lifetime to realise that it’s all relative. For the child in care access to that point of reference is often denied or worse, it’s unacknowledged. In twenty five years things have barely improved for the care leaver.
Norman Mills my ex social worker recalls what happened when I left care in 1985. “Wigan Social Services wouldn’t give you a penny and I had to scrabble around for second hand gear. It was scandalous” This week at the Prince’s trust annual conference for National Care Leavers Children’s Minister Edward Timpson deplored the lack of provision for the care leaver as “a national scandal”.
Taking good parenting as a source for solutions to service the child in care, (crazy I know), and to recognise that childhood is recalled throughout adult life, here are three actions that any parent would give to their child if they were going to leave them forever at such a young and impressionable age. So here they are, three suggestions to improve the care system for the child leaving its care: rent free housing for the first 5 years; free education for their first 5 years; free on demand therapy for the adult throughout their lives.
Our government should be judged above all on how it treats its child. It shouldn’t take long to get used to the idea that young people in care deserve the best parenting our society can give, that they are an opportunity for us to show the excellence of our society rather than a problem to be solved. They are not the problem and they do not “leave care”. Care ceases to exist.