Children in institutional settings

Anne Longfield - The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health

In this commentary piece, Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, explores the use of children's care homes in England and the need for improved supports to prevent placement in children's home and to provide for the needs of children and young people who are placed in these homes. Longfield applauds "the ambition of the [Lancet Group Commission on the institutionalisation and deinstitutionalisation of children] by Philip Goldman and colleagues to drive a reduction of the number of children living in institutions around the world," noting that "in England, the number of children living ininstitutions has substantially decreased over the past50 years, but there is still much further to go."

Longfield calls for "earlier and more focused help to enable children to stay with their own families, or with foster carers who are supported to care for children with complex needs."

"This Commission should be a prompt to broaden our expectations. All children have the right to a safe family home, including teenagers who are currently surviving alone in flats and in hostels, and children living in highly institutionalised youth custody or other secure accommodation. We need to be more ambitious as a society about providing much better community support for children, no matter what their needs, to avoid institutionalisation wherever possible and to improve the quality of support provided to the most vulnerable of children."