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97 per cent of children in care missing out on mentors

Children in care should be offered ‘independent visitors’ where it is in their interests

Only three in 100 children in care in England are getting the independent support they may be entitled to by law, new research by Barnardo's and the National Independent Visitor Development Project reveals.

Every child in care in England has the right to an adult mentor who 'visits, befriends and advises' them, if it is in their interests (s 23ZB of the Children Act 1989).

But the study found two in three local authorities have a waiting list for children in care to be matched with an independent visitor. In places where there is no waiting list, these mentoring services are often little known or may not exist at all.

To make sure children receive the support they are legally entitled to, Barnardo's and the National Independent Visitor Project are asking government, local authorities and voluntary sector organisations to consider signing up to a new set of quality standards.

Barnardo's Chief Executive Javed Khan said:

"Every single child needs an adult they can trust, who will be there for them and stay by their side no matter what life throws their way.

"I urge Theresa May to ensure mentors are in place for young people who are at risk of dropping out of education, training or employment. Children in care already have a right to a mentor, but sadly our research shows they aren't getting the support they need.

"A key aim of the Government's new strategy for care leavers is to support them into adult life. Providing enough mentors and signing up to the new, quality standards for independent visitors will help it achieve this."

The quality standards aim to ensure all looked after children understand their right to an independent visitor; services are designed to suit the needs and views of the child; proper processes are in place to recruit and train independent visitors then match them with the right children; and monitor the positive impact of those matches over the long term.

An independent visitor is a volunteer who is carefully matched with a young person so they can build a positive, consistent and supportive relationship, spending quality time together outside of the typical care system environment.

Walks in the park, visits to museums and galleries and chats over coffee are among the experiences that a young person might share with their independent visitor, who will stay with them over a period of years even as the child moves to a new foster home or changes social worker.

Fore the research, pleaseclick here.