We are a charity founded by social workers, lawyers and families in 1974 in response to the injustices experienced by many families involved with social services and the unnecessary separation of children from their families. We have had some important successes over the last 37 years:
• Then social services could take away parental rights without going to court. Now they can't.
• Then parents were not included in their children's case conferences nor in reviews if their children were in care. Now partnership working is enshrined in legislation.
• Then grandparents had no legal means to seek contact with their grandchildren if they were in care. Now they do.
We have had a significant impact on the development of services to children and families. These achievements are in large part due to us consistently bringing evidence of injustices to the attention of politicians, practitioners and the media, and putting forward workable solutions in the interest of the child. But the need for our work continues.
The need for our work
There are 65,500 looked-after children in England. This is an increase of 9% in the last four years. Local authority care order applications to court to remove children from their parents are at record levels. The family justice system is struggling to cope. There are delays in court cases, a shortage of foster carers and a care system that still fails many of our most vulnerable children.
We believe that not enough is done to prevent children being taken into care.
Effective family support and early intervention could avoid many children ending up subject to child protection plans or in the youth justice system. That is why we work for better services for families and children and to ensure that families' voices are heard during service planning and delivery.
There is important evidence that involvement of families in decisions about their children, even those at risk, is key to keeping children safe. This makes sense because 92% of children subject to a child protection plan live at home, it is therefore their family who is responsible for their day to day care. The absence of partnership working between the family and Children’s Services is an important indicator of serious concern. A lack of parental cooperation is a key factor as to whether Children’s Services decide to go to court to remove a child. That is why we promote ways to safely involve mothers, fathers and the wider family in the child protection process.
We believe more children, who cannot live with their parents, could be raised by wider family members. We campaign for improvements in legislation and services, so as to ensure that children and families are not failed. We estimate that there are four times as many children who cannot live with their parents, who are living with relatives or friends, than there are in the care system. Most of these carers are impoverished grandparents, left to deal on their own with traumatised children. The evidence is that family and friends care arrangements often work best for the child. Yet we know of placements that have broken down because of a lack of support. To date the needs of these children have been neglected - this must be addressed through a national framework, including a financial allowance for family and friends carers raising children who cannot live with their parents.