The Welsh Government has now published their report “If not now, then when? Radical reform for care experienced children and young people” on Wednesday 24th May. Llamau provided evidence for the report and our Senior Research and Policy Officer, Rania Vamvaka provides Llamau’s response to the report below. 

Read the full report here.  

Over the past year, Llamau collaborated closely with the Welsh Government, to provide evidence to the Children, Young People and Education Committee, and subsequently inform the “If not now, then when? Radical reform for care experienced children and young people” report.

If not now, then when? Radical reform for care experienced children and young people” is a much-anticipated and much-needed step in the right direction. For years, Llamau has been calling the powers that be for meaningful, systemic changes, meaningful accountability and appropriate policy revisions. This report signals the beginning of a longstanding and fruitful dialogue between the Welsh Government, third sector organisations and local authorities.  This work is paramount for Wales.

Let us not forget who is at epicentre of this report: young people who wish to make their voices heard and understood, make their challenges widely known and create solutions for themselves and their peers. In Llamau, we amplify those voices and ensure that they reach the right ears. Alongside this crucial report, we are calling out for specific young people responses from across Wales, as an early intervention strategy is critical to move forward and find long-term solutions.

In the last decade, there has been a sharp increase in the number of children looked after in Wales – in 2022 boys are making up 53.7% and 56.4% of all looked after children being aged 10 or over. Abuse or neglect are the primary reasons for children to enter care (61.5%), followed by family in acute stress (13.0%) and family dysfunction (13.0%).  In 2022, 69.4% of all care placements were in foster care, followed by 15.6% of young people who were placed with own parents or other person with parental responsibilities and lastly, 8.3% were in placements in residential settings.  The numbers are disturbing.

Llamau’s mission to eradicate homelessness for young people stands in the epicentre of this report.  If not now, then when? Radical reform for care experienced children and young people” amplifies the voices of the looked after children and it is a call for fundamental changes in the care system, evidence-based solutions, and long-term, sustainable actions.

Llamau’s contributions can be summarised, but not limited, to the following sections/ recommendations:

  • Support for Mental Health by highlighting that mental health is one of the biggest challenges facing children and young people in the care system, as they are approximately four times more likely to have a mental health need than children living with their birth families.
  • Edge of care early intervention services by emphasising that a child’s social worker will often be a key factor in whether young people’s views are taken into account at a really young age. Unfortunately, for most young people that wasn’t always the case, as decisions can be made “quickly and not explained at all.”
  • Being heard and advocacy for children in care and care leavers by stressing the widespread concern that is a significant challenge for young people in finding safe, appropriate accommodation, when leaving care. Llamau indicates that both availability and appropriateness of accommodation is a problem, and calls the lack of housing “a major crisis”. Llamau urges for housing to be a particular priority for local authorities and for a collaborative, multi-agency approach.
  • Unregulated accommodation by specifying the difference between regulated supported accommodation and other unregulated accommodation such as B&Bs, AirBnBs, and hostels. Llamau explains that they provide four- to six-bed spaces to try to create “a really supportive and family environment that is psychologically and trauma-informed”, with staff that receive clinical supervision and training from psychologists. They add that although supported accommodation is not regulated by Care Inspectorate Wales because it does not provide ‘care’ services, it is regulated by the local authority in partnership with housing and children’s services.
  • Safety and rights issues by calling for unregulated accommodation to be made illegal in Wales for children in care. By definition, children in care are entitled to ‘care’ and, also by definition, unregulated accommodation does not provide it.
  • After Care by urging to move away from this idea that chronological age trumps cognitive ability, as it results in “services falling off a cliff edge when a young person hits 18”, as by that time “there isn’t a great deal of engagement from statutory services.”
  • Accommodation for care leavers by suggesting that for young people leaving care there should be a really clear pathway to allow them to try out new accommodation before deciding whether to move there or not. Llamau adds us that both availability and appropriateness of accommodation is a problem, as supported accommodation offers a safe home environment for young people, who could otherwise be vulnerable to financial and sexual exploitation.

In Llamau, we believe in world without homelessness, and we work together with the Welsh and UK Government, local authorities and other third sector organisations to ensure that we build a safe future safe for young people.