We have drafted a letter below as a template for you to write to your MP. Please feel free to customise and amend this template letter to your requirements so it is reflective of your personal experiences.
So far three MPs have written to the previous Minister For Children who was removed in a cabinet reshuffle, but not replaced by a Minister at the same level, before we had a chance to meet with him. So we are waiting to hear back and have written an open letter. This letter can be accessed as a link on our page entitled ‘Our Stories Our Voices’.
We are very much hoping that our campaigning efforts will have positive outcomes, enabling us to have dialogue with policy makers and legislators.
We greatly appreciate all the work that is being done by other groups and researchers, and strive to work positively together with other organisations and charities.
I am writing to express my deep concern about adoptive parents, special guardians and parents of children with disabilities and mental health problems, being unable to get the support and understanding they need when they seek help. The result is that children are entering or re-entering care instead of the family being given timely appropriate support and accessing the services that are needed.
The government have appointed Mott MacDonald, a privately owned engineering consultancy, to administer the fund, and there are concerns about the way the fund has been set up by the Department of Education, and how it is being administered. The company will also not release figures on the number of special guardians that have accessed the fund without FOI requests. This information should be freely available and part of a formal policy evaluation to ensure the fund is reaching all those it is intended to serve.
Austerity is having a serious detrimental impact on health and social care and on some of the UK’s most vulnerable families. Parents and carers may struggle to achieve Child In Need teams and effective EHC plans, and they are having to use tribunals to achieve them or formal complaints procedures to make progress for their children. Having to resort to a formal complaints process, a tribunal, or even a judicial review, does not help families under enormous pressure. There seems to be very poor accountability in the system and a great deal of pressure placed on adopters, special guardians and kinship carers.
Social care professionals and support workers may also not appreciate the child’s challenging behaviours and anxiety related difficulties are the legacy of the past, or result from poor mental health, and they may attribute problems to lack of parental capacity or poor parenting/care.
Parents and special guardians making a lifelong commitment to care for a child, can find themselves marginalised. Knowledge of a child, gained from years of parenting or caring for them, are not being valued or appreciated. The parenting from a distance role is not well supported. In adoption or special guardianship, when a child re-enters care and there is no ‘intention to reunify’ on the part of the local authority, there may be no dialogue achievable about reunification. Restrictions around contact can feel punitive to all family members. In such cases the ASF cannot be accessed at all, and parents and carers may find it extremely hard to advocate for their child in a system that sees them posing a potential risk to the child.
No one should be frightened of the consequences of seeking help – least of all those that parent and care for extremely vulnerable children and young people from the care system.
I urge you to call for a process of consultation to develop effective and beneficial reform, to begin immediately with parents/carers/special guardians, of children with difficulties pertaining to early life trauma, disabilities and poor mental health.
Priorities for consideration and review are:
- The threshold for Section 31 Care Orders -the issue of beyond parental control is deeply problematic as it is a symptom of early life trauma and of poor mental health, and where families must cope with a child’s challenging behaviour.
- A Section 20 Care Order requires a child to become ‘Looked After’ – but re-entering care can undermine a child’s sense of belonging, and have a negative and destabilising impact on a child. This legislation was developed so that foster care could be better scrutinised and is not geared to the needs of the families who must use it to achieve respite and a break from the intensity of family life, or who cannot live together safely.
- The parenting/caring from a distance role, when it is not safe for the family to live together because of the legacy of the child’s past and/or their poor mental/emotional health, must be better supported.
Permanence, parental love, stability and security are important for all children but they are especially important for children with vulnerabilities. The need for family does not stop at 18 when the corporate parent is no longer responsible or involved. We must safeguard the future of these children with legislation that is designed to meet their needs by protecting their lifelong links with their families including links with siblings.
I look forward to your response.
Name (insert name)
Address (insert address)
Date (insert date)
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