Young people leaving care are one of the most vulnerable groups in society, more likely to become homeless, be unemployed and spend time in prison. Some will have been subject to abuse or neglect, and as vulnerable young adults they are likely to need someone to turn to, even after they have turned 18. It is time to end the misery of living alone too young for vulnerable youngsters, by giving every child in care the chance to 'stay put' until they're 21 - not just those in foster care.
The gap between the rhetoric and the reality of Government proposals for children's homes is increasingly deep. I am increasingly at a loss to find a way to help Ministers find the empathy for the situation the sector now finds itself placed in. We need our Ministers to be role models of effective child care policy and practice, and essential for good residential child care is something called reflective practice.
All we know about Looked After Children tells us that stability of living arrangements is a key factor to achieve. With it comes the opportunity to experience those sharing pieces of life that make all the difference but which in our busy lives we speak of far too little, a feeling of belonging, development of trust, the acceptance that builds self-esteem and feeling understood.
The right place at the right time for the right child. If we are to do this we need to do many things differently than we do now. Currently no children's home can feel safe secure and cared for because of the many pressures, especially those concerning finance and regulation, that are being applied to them.
The secretary of state for Education, Michael Gove, did something profoundly useful this last week, lifting the ban on revealing the locations of children's homes in the UK; the places that house our forlorn and forgotten few who are wards of the state, placed there for a variety of reasons usually owing to abusive and neglectful parents.
The UK government is pushing ahead full steam with Clause 1 of the Children and Families Bill. If implemented it could result in some children being placed with potential adopters despite there having been no court proceedings, no court decision that the child should be permanently removed from their parents and no legal advice given to the parents.
The prospects for young people starting out in the world today are already bleak with nearly one million young people currently unemployed - and now life is about to get even harder for them. The reckless proposal to remove housing benefits from under-25s risks leaving some of this country's most vulnerable young people out in the cold. What makes this proposal particularly distasteful is that in reality only a mere eight per cent of total housing benefits are claimed by under-25s, making this a policy which risks causing long-term harm to the lives of young people for the sake of a few headlines.
Children's homes can provide the upbringing a young people deserves. Opportunities struggled for and achieved despite a system that actively undermines such success deserves national public recognition. Imagine the self-esteem that would be shared by young people and staff. Imagine the change in public perception.
How could a 10 or 11-year-old girl be expected to tell the police that she went shoplifting as a cry for help or act of desperation to get food because she is living rough and last night she was raped by eight men? When we are dealing with child sexual abuse it is never, never up to the child to deal with it and quite wrong that they could face punishment if they fail to reveal.