For over 90,000 children in care in the UK, how well can their corporate parents, and national policy-makers, answer the question above? Are we able to learn from the long-term outcomes of the decisions made for children?
There is a growing consensus that better data is needed to inform what we do for children. The case is well made by The Alliance for Children in Care and Care Leavers which represents the main voluntary sector organisations that work to support children, and which re-launched its New Vision in June 2016. This stated that the Government should:
- Measure and report annually on looked after children and care leavers' wellbeing. This should combine available data and tools, including clinically validated measures and subjective measures based on children's own views about how their lives are going.
- Undertake longitudinal analysis of data relating to looked after children's outcomes, linking the SSDA to other datasets, to identify the effectiveness of care in improving looked after children's outcomes over time.
Link Maker believes this development would be best led by the sector, with collaboration between third sector organisations and the local authorities responsible for children. An ideal solution would be systemic, sustainable and evolving, rather than a discrete study or series of studies. It would be Inclusive of all care-settings, care-leavers, and potentially those on the edge of care.
Success will require wide consultation to achieve consensus, including on the collection tools, how data is aggregated and presented, to whom, and for what purpose. Link Maker already acts as a connecting element across children's social care, and seeks to support the development of a improved national picture of children's journeys and wellbeing in any way it can.