I chaired the first session of the Care Inquiry last Wednesday. I was particularly pleased to be there, as this is the first time in my memory at least that organisations from across the spectrum of care options have come together to look out how best to provide long-term homes for children.
The Care Inquiry offers a chance to look back at how the state has looked after children in care over the past 20 years, to explore the evidence on what has worked and what hasn’t, and to make recommendations to Government on how to secure stable futures for children going forward.
Thereis no way that the Inquiry is going to reach conclusions that absolutely everyone will agree on. That would be impossible. But what it can, and I believe will, do, is bring together what we do agree on and what evidence shows.
It can highlight short-term changes that will make an immediate impression, and ideas that will take a lot longer. Legislation, inspection, training, public perception – these all make a difference. But actually, what struck me last Wednesday is that what every child in care needs is someone who they will turn to when they need help and support and, this is really really important, who will be there for them in the long term, however long that is.
While the Inquiry will hopefully result in some far-reaching and long-lasting changes, what I asked all the attendees to take away from session One was much closer to home. I asked them all to think about the children who they meet in their lives, day by day, and to focus on the difference that they themselves are making, or could be making, to these children.
As the Inquiry progresses – and I believe starts to make a difference – we all need to remember that we are talking about real children with real lives being looked after by real people, and whatever point of view each of us comes from, these real people are all trying to do the best they can to help children succeed.
Dorit Braun is acting chief executive of the College of Social Work and she was the chair of the Care Inquiry, session one.