The Children's Pledge clearly defines the expectations the government has for the services provided to children and young people in care. It sets out high aspirations and demonstrates how they intend to achieve these. The Children's Pledge will act as guiding principles for politicians, managers and front line staff, underpinned by the Children's Plan and other strategies, in the provision of care to children and young people.
The duties of the government, as a Corporate Parent, have been undertaken and in many cases children and young people in care get the start in life they need.
This work is supported by a comprehensive Children's Plan launched this year, highlighting children in care as a priority group in a number of areas. However it is important to recognize that it is not always easy to give children in care the start in life they deserve – the Children's Pledge is about reaffirming our responsibilities and making the commitment to overcome these challenges so that all children and young people in care can be all they can be in life.
The government is ultimately responsible for children in care, whether they are there for a short or long period of time.
The government helps to:
- keep them safe
- teach them to enjoy and achieve in life through education and social development
- teach them to be healthy now and in the future including having good emotional wellbeing
- make a positive contribution in society now and in the future
- prosper in their future
Those duties are undertaken on behalf of the government primarily by Social Services but it is also the responsibility of education, justice, housing and health to make sure children and young people in care are getting the right support from their services. These duties are executed on a day to day basis by social workers, teachers, foster carers, residential care workers and others.
Corporate Parenting is the legal and moral duty the government has to ensure they do everything possible to give children and young people in care a good start in life – the care that they would want for their own children. Corporate Parents start at the highest level of the government from the Chief Minister through to front line staff and partner agencies.
The simple answer is for many reasons. For many children it will be because they have suffered abuse or neglect at home. A smaller group will be in care because their behaviour, for whatever reason, cannot be coped with at home. It may simply be to provide support for a bereaved parent who may be unable to cope with their family for a period of time. What is important to remember is that all children who come into care come from many different backgrounds, family situations and with their own individual needs.
There are on average 100 to 115 children in care on the Island. Some other children are provided with respite care – a break from their family, for whatever reason.
Children and young people in care already have a disadvantage because of their family situation that has led them to be in care – very often abuse or neglect. No matter how good their care is, it is difficult to provide the best start in life like you would for your own children.
Sometimes children have to move homes more than once, have trouble learning at school because of what is happening in their lives and get into difficulties with the police.
Children in care are also more likely to have mental health problems. It is because of these factors that children and young people in care need a particular focus; one that is about removing the barriers to achievement in life.