Column in Llanelli Herald on 8th December 2017
Fear of change, and the unknown, is something that we can all relate to - children, in particular, experience change on a daily basis, which is necessary for their development, but can also be very stressful for them.
Take moving home. Few children live in the same house for their whole childhood; most move several times, often to new towns and to new schools. Children, like the rest of us, handle change best if it is expected and occurs in the context of a familiar routine. Unpredictable changes, however, can chip away at their sense of security and leave the child feeling anxious and less able to cope with what life throws at them.
It saddened me, then, to read that here in Carmarthenshire, looked after children are moved between homes more frequently than they are in any other local authority, with one child in six having been placed in more than three homes in a single year. And this is not just a change of house, remember - this is often to a different family, in a different town and to a different school.
When I was chair of governors at a primary school a few years back, I was responsible for looked after children, and it was heartbreaking that often just as we were beginning to establish a relationship with a child, they would be moved with no prior warning at all.
So I was immensely pleased to get the Assembly's powerful Public Accounts Committee to agree to a rolling programme of investigations into the way that we support children in care. One of the issues I hope the enquiry will be looking at is how this constant state of flux has on looked-after children’s chances in life.
Currently, the statistics for looked after children are outrageous. Consider this - only 23% of looked after children in Wales achieved five GCSEs at C and above, 43% of looked after children are NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training), and a child in the care of the state is more likely to go to prison than to university. But where’s the outcry? These children get dealt a terrible lot in life and we can’t allow it to continue.
All children have a right to a healthy and safe childhood, and the chance to reach their full potential. Our ambition must be to make sure that looked after children have the same opportunities as everyone else.