15 May 2007 - New approaches needed to help children in care - McGimpsey
Government must work together and develop new approaches to improving services for children in care, Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey, said today.
The Minister emphasised that implementing the Care Matters strategy will be key in delivering long-term, fundamental reform of services for children in care over the next decade and more.
Speaking after an Assembly debate on the strategy, the Minister said: “Children in care are our special responsibility and our expectations for them should also be the same as they are for our own children.
“However, the harsh facts are that outcomes for children in care are often poor in comparison with their peers, with most facing the prospect of poor educational attainment and conflict with the law and suffering from low self-esteem, greater risk of mental health problems and uncertainty about the future.
“Through ‘Care Matters in Northern Ireland’, we have a unique opportunity to tackle these issues at every level. The document outlines a radical new approach to developing and enhancing services with a view to improving the lives of looked after children.”
The strategy sets out a number of ambitious goals including:
Reducing the number of children and young people in care by 20%, (from 2500 to around 2000), and
Doubling the number of care leavers who are in education, employment or training at age 19.
The Minister added: "Care Matters’ is the start of a process to significantly improve services for children in care. I will do all I can to ensure that we deliver the best possible services for our vulnerable children and young people in Northern Ireland. I believe that ‘Care Matters’ provides us with a very positive starting point from which to build a service of which we can all be justifiably proud.
“I believe it will make a real difference to all children in care who are entitled to the same opportunities in life as children living with parents. The holistic approach outlined in the document requires the support of a number of Departments and I hope that I will enjoy the full support of my colleagues in taking it forward.”
NOTES TO EDITORS:
1. The strategy has received widespread support and the endorsement of key local stakeholders including: Barnardo’s, the NSPCC, NICCY and Children in Northern Ireland (CiNI).
2. The proposals are centred on six main areas:
Strengthening support to families and children who risk being taken into care whilst ensuring that children are properly protected;
Ensuring children who come into care are in the right placement and have stable placements (be that in foster care or in a children’s home);
Ensuring the new trust have the necessary arrangements in place to act as corporate parents for children in care;
Improving education opportunities for children in care;
· Providing children in care with opportunities to take part in activities outside school and care; and
Strengthening support to young people leaving care as they make the transition to adulthood.
3. The Care Matters strategy was issued for consultation on 30 March 2007. Responses are due by 15 June. As part of the consultation process, specific events targeted at children and young people are being organised, in partnership with the voluntary sector, to ensure that every opportunity is given to children in care to have their say.