In a new report the NSPCC reminds us that nearly 40% of children who leave care return home to a parent or relative and of these research has found that between 40% and 60% suffer further abuse.
Following up on these findings, the NSPCC conducted interviews with 200 looked after children and found that more than 70% said they were not ready to return home.
Social workers told the NSPCC that budget cuts are a factor in returning children home before it is safe to do so. They also said that the courts often order the return of children home when social workers believe it is not safe.
There must be no doubt that these figures are very worrying. Thousands of children every year are being re-abused, despite the intervention of the public authorities. That is tragic and unacceptable. Government, courts, professionals and other practitioners need to give urgent attention to how these children can be given urgent help.And urgent thinking about how to improve outcomes needs to be put in hand.
The NSPCC makes a series of recommendations. Three which appear quite sensible are:
- Central government should publish data about outcomes for children returning home from care
- Local authorities should use this information to monitor support and assess their performance
- Outcomes for children who return home from care should form a central part of Ofsted’s assessment of the performance of local authority children’s services
However, there would need to be careful thinking about how to ensure that publication of this type of data does not become part of some future performance indicators or targets, which may result in unintended and unwelcome consequences.