Leading a debate in the House of Commons on Thursday 6 September, Steve McCabe MP (Birmingham Selly Oak) urged the Government to look at the support available for 16 and 17 year olds who are classed as ‘in need’ and their transition into adulthood.
The Children’s Society suggests there may be as many as 240,000 vulnerable 16 and 17 year olds in England and Wales but only about 58,000 are identified by local authorities. In fact, 46% of children referred to Children’s Services are actually turned away and 30% don’t even reach the ‘threshold’ for an assessment. Where young people are in receipt of support, this often changes on the day they reach 18 as there is no longer a legal obligation to provide continuing assistance and no requirement to help with the transition to adult services.
Disabled children face particular challenges moving into adulthood when responsibility for providing continuing support moves from children’s to adult services. There are over one million disabled children in the UK yet fewer than ever are getting the support they need.
Around 13% of categorised ‘children in need’ achieve no GCSE passes; they are much more likely to be NEETS; and 3 times more likely than children from the care system to end up homeless. Children in need are different to children leaving the care system or foster care as there is not statutory duty for local authorities to support these young people as they transition into adulthood.
During the debate Steve urged the Minister to commit to take the following steps to improve the lives and futures of children in need:
- Look again at the assessment threshold to ensure all children who are referred to Children’s Services receive, at the very least, an initial assessment.
- Look at the issue of homelessness amongst young people and require local authorities to assess it as a risk factor when identifying children in need.
- Establish proper transition procedures for all children in need.
- Extend the higher rate Pupil Premium to all children in need and make discretionary bursaries available to such children entering FE or further training.
- Improve provision of short breaks for disabled children in need and their carers and at least contemplate the Disabled Children’s Partnership suggestion of an early intervention and family resilience fund.
Steve McCabe MP said:
“I believe the time has come for a fundamental rethink on what is happening to children in need as they transition into adulthood. We’ve got to move away from a model of rationing which allows us to deny help to those who don’t reach some arbitrary threshold or simply hit their 18th birthday, and develop a model that recognises the continuing needs of vulnerable children and young people who are already in a very disadvantaged position.
“We must decide how much we are prepared to pay before young people reach crisis point rather than make claims about increasing funds for services only available after they’ve suffered a major crisis.”