Local authorities urged to sign Care Experienced Parents Charter

Harrow Council becomes one of the first local authorities in the UK to sign up to a new charter enshrining the rights of care-experienced parents.

05/11/21

Local authorities urged to sign Care Experienced Parents Charter

The charter, ‘Supporting parents in and leaving care’ was developed by care-experienced parents working with professionals from charities and local authorities. It pledges new standards of support for those starting a family and commits Harrow to actively tackling discrimination and stigma.

One of the most significant commitments in the charter sees the local authority move from a policy of automatic pre-birth care assessment referrals to a more proportionate risk-based approach.

Cllr Christine Robson, Harrow’s Cabinet Member for Education and Social Services for Children and Young People, said there is “widespread and enduring” practice in this field that, while well-intentioned, is discriminatory and has the potential to be deeply damaging to those looking to transcend their own care experience.

“Automatic pre-birth referrals carry with them an implicit message about someone’s suitability as a parent and their ability to provide a safe and loving home. The use of these referrals, without reference to a professional consideration of risk, is I think very problematic. It can have a corrosive effect on the relationships local authorities seek to nurture with their care-experienced clients and can prove psychology harmful to expectant parents,” Robson said.

“We’re extremely grateful to everyone that has contributed to the drafting of this charter – it has brought the voices of care-experienced parents to the fore. Their courageous and insightful contributions create a compelling case for fundamental policy revision in this area.”

Maria, who recently left care in Harrow, said the change will help many young people to think about their future and what they really want.

“I know many young people, including myself, are worried about starting our own families, as we don’t want the same thing that happened to us to happen to our children. Getting support and knowing that there are people out there that we can talk to is amazing.”

The wide-ranging charter would also commit local authorities to help care-experienced expectant mothers and fathers develop parenting skills, access financial help, advocacy and mental health support.

Terry Galloway, who is care experienced and the founder of www.careleaveroffer.co.uk – a website comparing what councils do for their care leavers across the UK, was involved in developing the Parents Charter and is urging more local authorities to adopt the new standards.

“This charter helps sow the seeds for better relationships. It is designed to get rid of the stigma and remove automatic pre-birth assessments of our care experienced parents. Only then can our most vulnerable feel safe asking for help and only then will better relationships be formed where healing can begin,” Galloway said.

Galloway was in care himself and moved over 100 times, recently launching the Care Leaver Local Offer Website with resources councils can use to improve their local offers to care leavers. Galloway’s sister was murdered by her boyfriend but, before she died, was involved in care proceedings for her children. Galloway believes that had she had the support she needed she may still be here today.

“I watched the volatile relationship my sister had with social services as they tried to help her with her children, she did not trust them, she was angry, and as a result fought against them when what she needed was someone to be on her side, to tell her she was going to be ok, that she was a good mother and that she would not be judged.”

The development of the new charter was led by the Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE, Cardiff University) and is launched in partnership with Care Leaver Local Offer.

Dr Louise Roberts, from the CASCADE team at Cardiff University, said commitment to the charter will make a “meaningful difference” to young people’s lives and help ensure access to the support they need and deserve.

“The charter is very much a joint effort and was co-produced with care-experienced parents. It is intended to provide a framework for strengthening corporate parenting support.

“We are delighted that Harrow are the first council to sign up and hope many more will follow.”

‘Supporting parents in and leaving care’ was funded by Cardiff University’s ESRC Impact Acceleration Account and developed by CASCADE in partnership with VFCC, NYAS Cymru and TGP Cymru. The research underpinning the charter was funded by Health and Care Research Wales.

View the full charter (PDF): https://www.careleaveroffer.co.uk/documents/1647-supporting-parents-in-and-leaving-care-cascade-charter.pdf

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