Siblings Together, a charity which champions the interests of brothers and sisters separated in the care system, has today (Thursday 22 January) called on the Government to collect precise data on the number of sibling separations in each UK local authority.
This is also a key recommendation made by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) in its recently published report ‘FINDING THEIR FEET – Equipping care leavers to reach their potential’. It cites Ofsted’s Children’s Care Monitor report, which states that 71 per cent of looked after children with a sibling in the care system were separated from a brother or sister during 2014. For those in residential homes the figure was considerably higher at 95 per cent.
Delma Hughes, Chief Executive and founder of Siblings Together said: “The level of sibling separation in care is a national scandal. The emotional and physical cost of this industrial level of separation is obviously going to impact heavily on the individuals concerned, but it is also an unnecessary drain on the UK economy as without family networks, children in care are likely to have poorer life outcomes and contribute less to society. This could be avoided with better planning and multi-agency collaboration between government, local authorities, fostering agencies, social services and charities like ourselves. “
Delma Hughes points to some of the figures about children in care cited by the CSJ, such as:
- Today in the UK, 36 per cent of care leavers aged 19 are not in education, employment or training (NEET)
- Nearly a quarter of girls in the care system become teenage mothers
- 24 per cent of the total adult population in prison have been in care
- 11 per cent of homeless people are care leavers
- 70 per cent of sex workers have been in care.
Siblings Together has tried to quantify just some of the costs of sibling separation in more detail. It concludes:
- There are approximately 40,000 children in care now who are living separated from brothers and sisters who are also in care, and a further 4,000 children entering care and separated from siblings each year.
- Over a third (34%) of children separated will rarely if ever see their siblings again.
- If just over a third of children in care separated from their siblings fall into the NEET category, then we estimate the cost to the UK economy of this could be in excess of £800 million, of which over £400 million represents the “excess” of NEET rates for children in care over average NEET rates*
- And there are many other major costs of the poor outcomes for children in care: for
example, only 1% of children are in care, yet 24% of prisoners were in care, at huge cost to society
Delma Hughes concluded: “We need to establish the exact scale of sibling separation in the care system today so we can respond appropriately, otherwise we will continue to fail children and young adults in early life and leave them disadvantaged in the long term, as well as leading to massive costs to society.”