A looked after child is a child/young person for who the Local Authority has taken responsibility for placing in some form of accommodation. The Local Authority subsequently has a statutory duty to monitor the young person and support them in this accommodation.
Approximately 60,000 children and young people are looked after by local authorities at any one time, with up to 90,000 young people passing through the care system in any year. Each year around 8,000 young people aged 16 or over leave care.
Children and young people in local authority care are greatly affected by the policies and decisions of the authority as their ‘corporate parent’. Being able to influence those decisions is a fundamental right. Enabling young people in care to work together to create change for themselves and their peers is a crucial role for both local authorities, and third sector organisations working with young people in care. The particular challenges faced by children young people in care can be significant. In 2006, only 12% of young people in care achieved 5 A*-C grades at GCSE level (or equivalent) compared to 59% of all children and children and young people in care are far more likely to miss school or be excluded from school. Over 50% of children in care responding to the Care Matters consultation said that they had difficulties accessing positive activities.
Participation for children and young people in care can range from having a say over their individual circumstances and being able to express one-off views about the quality of provision (for example, through complaints and comments procedures), through to young people collectively campaigning for changes in local authority policy.
The resources below provide pointers to help organisations working with young people in care to explore ways of building in more opportunities for young people to participate and create real, meaningful and positive change.
SCIE: Involving children and young people in developing social care
This online and downloadable guide, designed primarily for managers and practitioners provides a detailed theoretical and practice overview of how a 'whole systems' approach, covering culture, structures, practice and review mechanisms can support the participation of children and young people in social care settings.
Your rights to be heard when you are in contact with children's services
It also aims to help if they have or think they need a social worker, they live in a children’s home or with foster carers, they have been adopted or if they are in contact with a youth offending team. It will also help them get help if they are disabled or if they are an asylum seeker.
Find out more
CAFCASS: My Needs, Wishes and Feelings
Resource pack developed by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service to support young people's individual participation in family court settings. With version for young children and older young people.
My Turn to Talk: A guide to help young people in care aged 12 or older have a say in how they are looked after. Written specifically for young people, and with colour illustrations throughout, this guide offers practical tips for children on how they can have a say in how they are cared for, including their review meetings. The guide was written following extensive consultation with children and young people in care.
Say it your own way: children's participation in assessment. A printed guide and CD-ROM of practical resources to support professionals in giving children a voice.
Voices and choices: young people participating in inspections. Learning from participation work with young people involved in inspections.