North Yorkshire’s county councillors have taken a pledge to champion the cause of looked after children in their role as corporate parents.
Earlier this summer Children’s Minister Edward Timpson called on local authority lead councillors for children’s services to ensure that looked after children have the care, the support and opportunities they need to turn their lives around.
Over the past month North Yorkshire’s councillors have pledged that the wellbeing of looked-after children is at the forefront of their responsibilities
The pledge sets out a series of priorities for looked-after children and young people to live in secure and stable homes and placements; have access to good health care and improved educational achievement
County Councillor Tony Hall, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Children’s Services said:
Children and young people in care have a unique place in society and a special relationship with the State. They represent the most vulnerable members of our society and as councillors we have a duty and a moral obligation to champion their cause. They need to be cared about, not just cared for.
They have been taken into care either by a court order or by voluntary agreement with their parents and so all of us – local councillors and officers, central government, partner agencies, individual professionals and carers – all share responsibility for ensuring the best outcomes for their future lives.
As the Executive Member for children’s services I have a direct involvement in corporate parenting, but I need the support of all councillors in the authority. We must work to understand why these children come into care; we need to know whether we are providing the best care possible as an authority and we need to listen to what they have to say. This pledge is recognition by members as a whole that they have a part to play in this shared task.
While nationally outcomes for young people in care have not been good, North Yorkshire carries out nationally-recognised best practice in the care of looked-after children and young care leavers. Looked-after children in the county can remain with their foster families beyond 18 to help them through the transition into adulthood. Indeed North Yorkshire accounts for 10 per cent of the entire population of young people in England who remain in the care system beyond the age of 18.
This also enables them to achieve with their education, training or employment. A significant number of the county’s looked after young people go on to university – double the national average. One care leaver is currently studying for a postgraduate degree at Oxford University and 21 are students at other universities and higher education establishments.
Young people leaving care who are in education or training are also entitled to support from North Yorkshire’s leaving care team and a “virtual school” until they are aged 25.
Cllr Hall added:
We already know that children in care in North Yorkshire face a brighter future than in other parts of the country and our task is to ensure that this good work continues and improves yet further. The consequences of not caring enough about these young people are grave; both for the young people themselves, but also for communities as a whole.