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Putting Children's voices at the heart of reform. A report by Dame Rachel De Souza, Children's Commissioner for England January 2022.

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The report completed by Dame Rachel De Souza is dedicated to the children in care, who have voiced their experiences. These children have shared their thoughts and personal experiences in the hope that change can be brought for the children who follow in their footsteps.

Rachel De Souza goes on to state that she wants to ‘put children’s voices at the heart of everything we do’. She  sent a survey, ‘The Big Ask’, to nearly 600,000 children last year offering them the opportunity to express their hopes, aspirations, and challenges.

She found that children in care wanted the same as all children. They wanted to ‘feel safe, stable, and loved; to maintain the vital relationships with friends and family; to be able to pursue their own interests and make plans for the future, and to be helped and supported when things go wrong.’ Rachael De Souza states that these are the essential elements of a good childhood, which she finds are often missing for children in care. It was found that across all identity groups and regions of England, the message was universal: family forms a fundamental pillar of children’s lives and of their happiness.

The vast majority of answers from the children that were asked, said they were happy with their lives and shared the same aspirations as other children. However, this was not the case for all children, and this must be listened to. Commenting on the Children’s Commissioner’s report, ADCS Vice President Steve Crocker said: “This latest report by the Children’s Commissioner raises a number of important issues such as the importance of consistent, strong relationships for children and young people, the need for greater a focus on children in the health system and formalising the role of schools in safeguarding arrangements to name just a few. It includes recommendations for both local and national government around placement sufficiency and stability. Ensuring that children in care have a secure, consistent and caring home to stay in is one of the highest priorities for all local authorities.”

Currently, there is a Review of Children’s Social Care, the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Green Paper, the School’s White Paper, and reforms to Integrated Care Services all taking place now. This creates a unique opportunity to change and reform the lives of children in care.

Rachel De Souza sets out in her report several different children’s cases from the ‘Help at Hand’ (HAH) advice and representation service. These demonstrate the issues that need to be solved and the complexity and compounding needs children have. To read these children’s stories, please click the link here.

‘The Big Ask’ survey generated an unprecedented response and the Commissioner’s Office has acted on the findings of this survey. A range of proposals have been made to improve the lives of looked after children and many of these proposals have been taken forward. To read more about the proposals, please click here.

Here at Johnson Astills Solicitors, members of our Care Department are highly experienced and can deal with a wide range of matters where Social Services are involved.  Please contact  Johnson Astills at either our Leicester Office on 0116 255 4855 or our Loughborough Office on 01509 610 312 and ask for a member of the Care Team so that we can advise you accordingly. Alternatively, please email us on careteam@johnsonastills.com  and a member of our team will be happy to assist you.

For more information about ‘The Big Ask’ survey and ‘The Big Answer’ results, please click here.