'It should be the civil rights issue of our time': More support for those in care

Councillor Jeanette Sunderland <i>(Image: newsquest)</i>
Councillor Jeanette Sunderland (Image: newsquest)

COUNCILLORS have voted to do more to help improve the lives of Bradford residents who have grown up in the care system.

At a meeting of Bradford Council last week members voted to make care experience a “protected characteristic".

It would ensure children in care and care leavers, a group one Councillor said “face some of the biggest inequalities that exist in our country”, are not discriminated against.

Councillor Jeanette Sunderland (Lib Dem, Idle and Thackley) brought a motion to the full Council calling for better consideration of care experience in Council decisions, and to treat care experience as a protected characteristic, such as religion, sex or race.

Cllr Sunderland pointed out that Bradford Council’s Children’s Services had failed those in care for too long.

She said: “The question is now what more can be done to put right this failure.

“The Council has a legacy of children who did not have their needs met early enough and as such now services have to work with them and their families in a more intensive way for longer.

“We have too many children who received their help and support too late referred to now being ‘legacy issues'.

“Legacy issues, it’s a bit like those words ‘demand management’ – it’s too easy to forget we are talking about people not a production line for baked beans. They are not issues, they are children.

“By making being care experienced a protected characteristic we can try to put right the wrongs done to children, young people and their families by the legacy of inadequacy of the last 14 years.

“The disadvantage faced by care-experienced people should be the civil rights issue of our time. Those are the words used by the author of the review into Children’s Services.

“Care-experienced people are often powerless, often invisible and face some of the greatest inequalities that exist in our country.

“Relatively large numbers of care experienced people are isolated, become homeless, miss out on university or a job, die early and suffer lifelong ill heath such is the impact of disadvantage.”

“This (motion) will be a step change for care experienced people. By doing this you will make it possible for Bradford’s legacy children to face fewer barriers in the future.”

Councillor Sue Duffey, executive for children and families, said: “We have, on numerous occasions acknowledged the work to improve Children’s Services has not been good enough or fast enough.

“It is easy to stand on the sidelines throwing stones, but you have to ask if that is being the most effective corporate parent you can be?”

Cllr Sunderland replied: “I will talk about the Ofsted inspections, and we should always talk about it. We should never forget we had 14 years to protect children from inadequate services.”

Members all voted to support Cllr Sunderland’s motion.