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Empowering looked after children

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Children’s rights include the right to participation in decisions made about them. For looked after children, this right is enshrined in the Children Act, 1989. This article reports the results of a study of children’s views about their experience of being looked after and the degree of power they felt they had to influence decision making. Their main areas of criticism were frequent changes of social worker, lack of an effective voice at reviews, lack of confidentiality and, linked to this, lack of a confidante. The findings are discussed in relation to recent policy changes. Specifically, the Looked After Children documentation and the Quality Protects Initiative by setting out uniform objectives and performance criteria seem to restrict the freedom of local authority management and of social workers to respond to individual children’s preferences or to give weight to what the children themselves consider to be in their best interest.

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