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Suffer the little children

Tony Blair admits the Government is 'not yet succeeding' in helping looked-after children

Children in care are one of four key groups to be targeted as part of a new drive to tackle social exclusion announced by the the Prime Minster this week.

Tony Blair admitted that his government has not yet done enough to improve the education and life chances of children in care. An action plan to be published next week will ensure early support for children at risk and free professionals from bureaucratic rules that stop them from providing the best services to these children Every child should have his or her own budget which can be spent on services which meet their individual needs, he said.

Mr Blair's speech came less than nine months after The TES launched the Time to Care campaign aimed at drawing attention to the low achievement of children looked after by local authorities.

It follows an announcement in March by Ruth Kelly, then Education Secretary, that all children in care would be guaranteed a place at their first choice school. Campaigners had warned that children in care were being denied access to schools favoured by the middle classes.

Mr Blair said: "Meeting children who are or were in care, two things struck me forcibly. The first was how varied their problems were and thus how individualised the response needs to be.

"But the second thing was their ability, their talent, the confidence they had been given through being helped, which was allowing them to develop into the type of human beings they have the potential to be.

"This is the ultimate point. Without help they would have continued to suffer. With it, they can be fulfilled. We need to be frank - we are not yet succeeding."

Only 6 per cent of children in care get five or more A* to C grade GCSEs compared with 60 per cent of their classmates.

The Government's action plan, to be launched next week by Hilary Armstrong, minister for the Cabinet Office and social exclusion, will also focus on reducing teenage pregnancies, helping families with complex problems, and providing additional support to those with mental health problems.

* jon.slater@tes.co.uk

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