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Issue Date:- 16 June 2008


12 TOP child care charities are urging the Government not to condemn young people leaving care to a life of poverty and underachievement, by calling for a change to the rules which currently see them fending for themselves at 18.

In an open letter sent to children’s secretary Ed Balls, the charities said:- “As MPs debate the Children and Young Persons Bill today, hundreds of 17 year olds in care across England will be packing their bags and getting ready to ‘go it alone’, because local authorities are not required to look after them after their 18th birthdays.

We urge the Government to take this opportunity to ensure all young people have the option to remain with their foster carers until the age of 21.  This means giving a clear commitment to roll out proposed pilots across England as soon as possible, to support the foster carers looking after these young people and to provide the funding required to make the ability to stay until 21 a reality.

We welcome many aspects of the Bill but failing to enable children to stay with their foster carers beyond the age of 17 will have serious consequences for this Government’s stated intention of transforming outcomes for young people in care.”

The letter was signed by representatives of the Fostering Network, NCH, Barnardo’s, NCB, The Children’s Society, BAAF, Voice, A National Voice, The Who Cares? Trust, TACT, Rainer and The Frank Buttle Trust.

Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, added:- “Many young people in care are pushed out into independent living before they are ready, due to lack of local authority support.

In fact those that get to stay until they are 18 are in some respects the “lucky ones”, as many children in care have to fend for themselves when they are just 16 or 17.

Without significant personal sacrifices from foster carers, many others would face the same fate.

This is just not good enough.  We need a commitment from the secretary of state to ensure all children in care have the option to stay with foster carers until they are 21, and we need it now.  Research and experience show that the longer young people stay with their foster carers, the better they do later on.

This Government cannot condemn another generation of care leavers to a lifetime of poverty and underachievement.”

Emergency Vehicles

DECIDING what to do when you hear an emergency vehicle approaching can be a dilemma. 

Do you stay where you are and potentially block the progress of an emergency vehicle?

Or do you move into a position that may put you or other road users at risk?

Unfortunately, some drivers over-react to emergency service vehicles travelling on "blues and 2s" (blue lights and 2-tone horns).  This is often because they don't hear or see the emergency vehicle until it's too close, and then take drastic action to get out of the way.

The IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) says that good driving practice will alert you early to emergency vehicles: regular mirror checks (side and rear) for example, and keeping the windows slightly down around town, so you can hear sirens approaching.

Don't panic and just brake.  It's natural to want to react.  But instinctively putting your brakes on immediately in front of an emergency vehicle doesn't help:- it slows the progress of the emergency vehicle and jeopardises other road users.

Think about where you are on the road.  You should deal with the problem in the same way that you deal with any other potentially hazardous driving situation.  What is the safest option available to you?

Don't cross red traffic lights or speed to get out of the way.  The emergency driver has training and legal exemptions that you don't have.  Bus lanes and box junctions can be problems too, but let them resolve the problem of breaking the rules - not you.

If you are moving it may well be that you can continue at a reasonable pace and the emergency vehicle can follow you out of a pocket of congestion (such as a blocked one way system).  In that scenario, attempting to pull over too soon, or slow down, might just cause a needless obstruction and so hamper the progress of the emergency vehicle.

Indicate your intentions clearly Don't pull in opposite other obstructions, such as centre bollards.

If you are thinking about pulling over across an entrance to a school or factory, you may be unwittingly preventing the emergency vehicle reaching its destination.  And do think about where you are asking the emergency driver to overtake you - on the brow of a hill or a blind bend can be placing him or her in a very difficult position.

Get out of the way as soon as you can do so in safety. 

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