Voices of children – children’s experiences of instability #CareExperienced

‘Children’s Voices: Children’s experiences of instability in the care system’ is published alongside the Children’s Commissioner’s third annual Stability Index, which measures stability in the care system by looking at how often children in care move home, school or social worker over a year.

In addition to this data analysis, the Children’s Commissioner’s Office also carried out interviews with 22 children in England who are in care or care leavers. The interviewees were aged between 9 and 21. These interviews explored two themes – the impact that instability had on these children, in their own words, and their perspectives on the factors that make instability harder or easier to deal with.

Secure love and care

The children spoken with shared a common need for stability in their lives. All of the children wanted to live in a home where they felt loved and secure, to go to a good school where their needs and experiences were understood and catered for, and to build long-lasting and stable relationships with social workers.

As analysis in the Stability Index shows, it is still too often the case that many children growing up in care do not receive the stability and certainty they deserve:

Many of the children spoke about feeling sad, angry, disappointed and stressed. Others described how multiple moves and changes in their significant relationships left them feeling exhausted or weary.

“It can feel frustrating, boring, repetitive and exhausting to build that same relationship over and over. In some cases it led to apathy or indifference towards changes of social worker.”

The children also had ideas for how changes could be managed more effectively. They wanted:

  • their social worker to discuss the upcoming change in a meaningful way and to involve them in decisions;
  • the transition not to be rushed, so that they have time to adjust to the idea;
  • to be told in advance what would change, who the new social worker was, and what they were like;
  • children spoke about a particular teacher, an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) that they could turn to, or a counsellor, which made it easier to cope with a ‘revolving door’ of social workers.

“She’s [IRO] always been really, really supportive and anything that I wanted to change or have altered she’d always back me up if it was within reason. And I just felt like I could always speak to her more than I could my social workers because they were always changing but I’ve always had my IRO. [It is important to have someone stable in one’s life] so you can have trust in someone that you can confide in. Someone’s always going to be there instead of having to change and then having to rebuild a relationship with somebody else.”

(Female, 16).

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“I welcome the priorities laid out in NIROMP’s strategic vision for the forthcoming years. The focus on empowering children’s voices and placing them at the heart of care-planning is an aspiration I have long shared. The renewed emphasis on stability also chimes with evidence gathered by the CCO office in the last year”.

Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England

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