Guest post by Amy Woodworth – Policy and Campaigns Officer at Become
Celebrating the rights of children in care
This Care Day, Friday 16 February, is an opportunity to reflect on the rights of each child, and how we all work to defend and enhance them.
We know that unfortunately, children in care do not always have their rights respected. They aren’t always made aware of the things that they are entitled to, and that’s what makes the work of organisations like NIROMP so important.
The rights of children in care are made clear in UK and in international law, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which includes articles such as:
If a child has been placed away from home for the purpose of care or protection (for example, with a foster family or in hospital), they have the right to a regular review of their treatment, the way they are cared for and their wider circumstances.
Children in care and care leavers have particular rights and entitlements that must be upheld by national and local government. At Become, we hear all too often that this doesn’t always happen in practice.
In 2013, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Looked After Children and Care Leavers, which Become organises, published a report called ‘The Entitlements Enquiry’. We found that children and young people frequently were not aware of their rights and entitlements, either because they weren’t told in the right way or because they weren’t told at all. We also found that the people who work with children in care and care leavers were not always aware of these rights and entitlements. Lastly, we found that even when children and young people did know about these things, they were not necessarily receiving them.
In 2014, we wrote a follow up report looking at these issues one year on, and found some improvements. Many local authorities were doing more to keep children and young people informed, and children and young people themselves were more likely to say that they felt they understood their rights.
More needs to be done, but positive change continues to happen. New legislation requires local authorities to develop Corporate Parenting Principles, put together a local offer for care leavers, and widen access to Personal Advisors for all care leavers up until the age of 25. I hope that these changes this will result in care leavers finding out the information they need more quickly and more easily.
We can all help to make sure that care-experienced children and young people know their rights. By not assuming what they do and don’t know, by explaining clearly, by giving them written information, and by following up to make sure that their rights are respected and that they receive their entitlements. IROs and IRO Managers already do a lot of this important work. On Care Day, as we celebrate all the things that children in care and care leavers can achieve, we should also make sure we’re doing all we can to empower and support them.
Care Day is also a time to celebrate the achievements of children and young people in care as well as raise awareness of some of the issues they may encounter in childhood and beyond. So follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on Care Day, using the hashtag #CareDay18, to keep up to day with the days activities.
Policy and Campaigns Officer