At the beginning of last week, a letter that was sent from a group of South East Councillors to the Education Secretary Minister was released to an online magazine called Children and Young People Now. The magazine published the response from their letter. The title of the magazine article was South East Councillors lobby Government for more Care Placements and one of the pieces that was published from the letter was
Many of our council budgets are stretched beyond what we can afford. The costs of placing children are now making it impossible to fund according to need, and have gone beyond unsustainable for our budgets at a time of ever-increasing costs.
Later on the section included
Many of us are focussed on increasing our number of in-house carers, looking at providing local alternatives to out-of-area residential placements and [we] continue to increase the number of children and young people placed with in-house carers if we can.
This article also explained that the government minister who the letter was being directed to was Gillian Keegan who many of us are aware is the MP for Chichester. It would be very helpful if when our local MP has responded to that group of local Councillors who have written the letter, that she would also release her responses to the rest of us. This is because many of us have been informed about the letter that the Councillors sent to the Minister through a national magazine.
Along with the response that was raised by the local Councils and shared publicly, there is another Sussex MP who has recently raised similar concerns in Parliament. Tim Loughton is the MP for East Worthing and Shoreham and he was previously involved in the Conservative Government for supporting children’s issues. Indeed, I had the opportunity to meet him many years ago when he participated in a charity that I was Chairing that is primarily based in Sussex and also covers parts of Surrey and that was originally the Hove YMCA. Tim’s comments in the week before the Council letter was published included these words
If we do not get it right in those early years, as we have heard from many contributions, then I am afraid we are condemning children to a lifetime of disadvantage and catch-up.
And he went on to say
I am also delighted that we have a new Minister, who I know shares great enthusiasm for the subject. Her job is the best in Government
so that comment would suggest that he was inspiring Gillian to release her view to our communities. Another document that has emerged in the last few weeks was published by Ofsted on the 10th November and it was published as the National Statistics Fostering in England. It included this comment
Over the past few years there has been an upward trend in the proportion of total enquiries received by the IFA sector: from 70% in 2017 to 2018 to a peak of 79% in 2020 to 2021. This year, only 6% of those who made initial enquiries about becoming a foster carer went on to apply. Since 2017 to 2018, when 9% of those who enquired went on to apply, there has been a downward trend in the proportion of applications to enquiries. This means that, over the last 5 years, an increasing number of people have been making initial enquiries about becoming a foster carer but a decreasing proportion of them have gone on to make an application.
There have also been other politicians who have referred similar themes in Parliament in the last few days although currently there is no indication that Gillian Keegan has responded to the Councillors letter. The themes which focus on children in our Nation extends many other aspects from the calls included in the letter from the South East Councillors or the recent Ofsted document. One of these emerged last Wednesday when the Prime Minister was responding to MPs who asked him questions. One of these came from Munira Wilson who is the MP for Twickenham who asked a question that ended with
will the Prime Minister give him the best thanks possible by delivering free school meals for every child living in poverty?
and the response from Rishi Sunak was
We are supporting almost 2 million children with free school meals. We also, last year, invested hundreds of millions of pounds in the new holiday activities and food programme, which is broadening that support through the holidays for those kids who need it, on top of our work to roll out breakfast clubs across the country.
Clearly 2 million children is a significant number of people and families but it needs to be clarified if it covers all of the children who need that assistance which are at School.
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