Reform for care-experienced young people: our view on Welsh Gov.’s response to report

In July 2023, the Welsh Parliament Children, Young People and Education Committee released a report calling for radical reform for care-experienced young people.

We feel that the Welsh Government’s response – while containing some promising references to intervention, prevention, and trauma informed care – did not go far enough.

There is not a strong enough commitment to the radical reform that the report called for - but it is not all a failed opportunity.

Overall, we are very pleased to hear that the Government recognises the importance of early intervention and prevention in care and support for care-experienced young people, and its advocacy of trauma and informed practice.

We do, however, have some concerns that there is not a strong enough commitment to the radical reform that the report called for. This was an opportunity to seize the reins for change and the number of rejected suggestions is particularly concerning. The system is creaking, and young people are calling for radical change. We urge Welsh Government to take action to lead that change.

But it is not all a failed opportunity.

Firstly, we strongly support the implementation of the NEST Framework and are pleased to see Government support for it.

The idea behind NEST, of keeping individuals safe and able to thrive with person-centred and specific support is even more imperative for children and young people who are care-experienced, due to the trauma and additional challenges that may come with this.  Therefore, it is essential that they have trusted adults around them and services that are working cohesively to support them to not traumatise them further.

We are also pleased to hear that a CAMHS service specification is in creation.  We know from our engagement with children and young people who have experiences of using CAMHS that they have concerns about the service, so some more clarity around the service itself will hopefully mean that it can better support children and young people.  This includes supporting those with varying levels of distress and regardless of their backgrounds, using a personalised and trauma-informed approach to providing support and taking a needs-led approach.

It is of course very important to stress that access to CAMHS is not the panacea it is often seen as, nor is it always the right option for everyone. We also support the move towards whole system approach to creating the conditions for good mental health and healing in the places children and young people (and adults too) already have relationships (such as in school). All too often seeing access to CAMHS as the most important intervention can set young people on a medicalised mental health pathway, where what is needed is connection to others that is built from a secure base. What we need is for places like schools and other public services to become trauma informed and use relational health approaches, not a punitive approach to ‘change behaviour’.

We need systems to understand all behaviour is communication of an unmet need. Moving away from approaches such as ‘ready to learn’ and towards least restrictive and human rights focused approach such as positive behavioural support will be key. At the same time CAMHS should be built on a social model of mental health intervention, we recognise that it has already made steps towards this.

Moreover, we welcome the introduction of the Care Experienced Children Change Fund because being separated or potentially separated from your child can be an enormously distressing and traumatic situation. If more parents can be helped in knowing their rights and possibly keeping their children, then less can enter the care system in the first place.  We know that existing projects are effective, so it is great to hear that these now have the funds to be scaled up. Supporting whole families to break the cycle of trauma is key to reducing the number of children experiencing adversity and entering the care system.

We are also very pleased that Recommendation 16 has been accepted by the Government which set out how the Welsh Government and others will improve the school experiences of care experienced children. We know that school can be a strange place to navigate, especially for those who may not have the support of a stable family network to fall back on. Supporting care-experienced children with what they may need to attend school will mean that they can reach their highest potential and go on to live flourishing lives.

Furthermore, we are pleased to hear about the work of the Eliminating Profit Programme Board, and the work it is doing to explore unregistered services because unregistered services are not likely to have the best interests of care-experienced children and young people but instead shareholders and others who are set to gain from making money off looking after care-experienced children businesses. Identifying and eliminating what may be motivating services to operate without registration will benefit both the local authority and the children and young people.

However, we are disappointed by the Government’s rejection of Recommendation 3.  We believe that the Welsh Government should lobby the UK Government to amend section 4 the Equality Act 2010 to add ‘care experience’ as a protected characteristic.  We know that care-experienced young people face discrimination because of their background, and this can affect their ability to find and retain work.  By making ‘care experience’ a protected characteristic, we would ensure that discrimination against care experienced people would be taken as seriously as discrimination against any other protected characteristics and spread awareness of discrimination against care experienced people among the public.  It would also ensure lifelong protection against discrimination, that would see them be supported far beyond their 25th birthday.

We cannot see any good reason, nor is any good reason offered, why the inclusion of care experience as a protected characteristic, is opposed by the Welsh Government. We understand that this is not within our current devolution settlement, but the refusal to lobby the UK Government on this issue is hugely disappointing.

We cannot see any good reason, nor is any good reason offered, why the inclusion of care experience as a protected characteristic, is opposed by the Welsh Government. We understand that this is not within our current devolution settlement, but the refusal to lobby the UK Government on this issue is hugely disappointing.

Moreover, while we welcome the analysis into Deprivation of Liberty Order cases, we would argue this does not go far enough.  Implementing Deprivation of Liberty Orders is a practice that directly opposes the trauma informed practice approach that the Government recognises is needed in care and support for care-experienced young people.  As such, there needs to be a review into the effectiveness of this depriving approach, and alternative, more relational ways of working need to be considered. Again, this was an opportunity to champion the cause of young people who have experienced the restrictive impact of Deprivation of Liberty Orders, and we would urge the Welsh Government to reconsider.

We are pleased that the Government are committing to ensuring care leavers can access the When I’m Ready scheme beyond age 18.  Given that from age 18 they would be undertaking the transition into adult health services, When I’m Ready continuing beyond this will bring much needed stability and reassurance.  However, we believe this scheme should be extended for all are leavers up until age 25, regardless of whether they are in full time education or training.  Stopping When I’m Ready at 21 will deprive young people of vital support, particularly for young people who are not in education or training, could negatively impact their likelihood of ever engaging with education and training which would affect their future employability.


In summary, we recognise that there is good work being done to increase support for care-experienced young people and are pleased that the Welsh Government recognise the need for trauma informed and person-centred care and support for care experienced young people, focusing on an early help and prevention model.

However, when thinking about ‘radical reform’ we would argue that this response is not radical enough to ensure that care experienced young people have the amount of support that will ensure that they grow up to live thriving and flourishing lives – the lives they want to lead.  We would call for the Welsh Government to reconsider the age thresholds on support and put more in place to protect care experienced young people from the discrimination that they face so that this future can become a reality.

Report and Welsh Gov’s response:

If not now, then when? Radical reform for care experienced children and young people – Summary Report

View Welsh Government’s response here

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