Blog: New category addressing increase in children and young people in care

Published: 5 Feb 2020

Author: Naomi French
Blog: New category addressing increase in children and young people in care

The number of children and young people in care has hit an all-time high. This year we are launching a new category of Churchill Fellowships exploring this growing challenge.

In 2018, according to official figures, there were 99,672 children and young people in care in the UK, which is a record high. This number has been increasing year on year. A recent report from the Department for Education shows that in England alone there are now 78,150 children in care, a number that has risen by almost a third in the last decade. With these rising numbers and cuts to funding, local councils say they are struggling to cope and unable to offer the best possible care to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

"Young people who have grown up in care are seven times more likely to die in early adulthood than other young people."

In response to this growing issue, this year we are launching a new category of Churchill Fellowships, on Children and young people in care, which will open for applications on 30 April 2020.

Children in care are those who have been in the care of their local authority for more than 24 hours. They might be living with foster carers or kinship carers (someone they already know), living in a residential children's home or living in residential settings such as schools or secure units.

For many of them, being separated from their birth parents can be a traumatic experience. This is compounded every time a child is moved to a different home, often far away from friends, schools and neighbourhoods. This happens regularly with 1 in 10 children in care experiencing two or more home moves in a year and with more than half experiencing at least one home move over a three-year period. Recent news reports have also highlighted the growing numbers being moved into unregulated care homes where they are at higher risk of exploitation.

This lack of stability and time to develop meaningful relationships often can have a significant impact on a child’s future. While many care experienced young people have happy, successful lives, the statistics show that they often experience more difficulties than the general population:

  • Young people who have grown up in care are seven times more likely to die in early adulthood than other young people.
  • A quarter of the adult prison population are thought to have spent time in care. (This is despite the fact that less than 1% of under 18s enter local authority care each year.)
  • A quarter of homeless people have been in care at some point in their lives.
  • Nearly half of young people who leave care have mental health problems.
  • Care leavers are less likely to go to university, with 12% entering higher education by the age of 23 compared to 42% of the general population. Those that do go to university are less likely to finish their course.

On the positive side, many organisations and individuals are working tirelessly to help improve life for children and young people who have experience of care, and there have been some brilliant initiatives. At WCMT, we want to join this effort to seek solutions and ideas that might further improve the UK’s care system. So this year we are pleased to announce the creation of a new Fellowship category, on Children and young people in care, which will open for applications on 30 April 2020. This category will run for three years in partnership with the Hadley Trust, aiming to fund 10 Fellows each year to seek international solutions in this area and bring back new ideas to the UK. 

We know that other countries are doing things differently, but there is currently little UK research into global best practice - and little sharing of ideas. Some of our current Fellows have already begun to explore international approaches in this field and are making positive changes in the UK. Examples include Emmanuel Akpan-Inwang, who will be setting up a new model of children’s homes based on his Fellowship to Scandinavia, and Callum Lynch, who organised the first ever international gathering of care-experienced people as a result of his Fellowship to the USA. 

With the current Government’s manifesto pledge to undertake a review of the care system, and Scotland’s Independent Care Review due to report on their findings this month, this is a timely moment to seek further solutions. We feel this Fellowship programme has the potential to bring about significant change and we look forward to seeing the results.

This category will be open for applications from 30 April to 15 September, for travels in 2021.

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