I very much welcome the emphasis on the needs of adolescents in the report of the House of Commons Education Committee on child protection.
The inquiry found a worrying picture of the how the system fails to provide protection and support to those in the 14-18 age group. The report identifies:
- A lack of services for adolescents
- A failure to look beyond behavioural problems
- A lack of recognition of the signs of neglect and abuse in teenagers
- A lack of understanding about the long-term impact of maltreatment on young people
The Guardian quotes committee chairman, Graham Stuart as saying:
"Care for older children is not good enough. They are let down too often, frequently ignored or not listened to, can be pushed out of care too young and insufficiently prepared and supported. This has to change."In all cases, these children must be treated as children first, and not just as either criminals or immigration cases. To ensure this happens, we want the Department for Education to take responsibility for the welfare of all children."
Recognising this problem is an important step forward, but one thing that has to be accepted is that service improvements are seldom cost free. Protection and care for adolescents must be improved, but it should not be improved at the cost of safeguarding services for other children. Extra resources will be required.
If the Government is serious about prioritising services for vulnerable children and young people, it needs to look at transferring resources from other services. If it is more important to meet children's needs for safety than to pursue them as 'criminals' or 'immigration offenders', then resources need to be diverted from the police and the UK Borders Agency to local authorities and children's health services. It's not rocket science.