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One in 26 looked after children contact Childline about failings and weaknesses in the care system, a new report by the leading children's charity has revealed.
The report calls on local authorities to ensure fostered and other looked after children always have an adult to speak up for them when they need help. At present, children only have a right to an 'advocate' if they want to make a formal complaint about their care.
There were over 83,000 children in foster, residential or other forms of care in 2009. In all, 3,196 looked after children - some as young as five - contacted Childline over 2009-2010 with problems about being in care. Many were suffering physical and sexual abuse and neglect and felt lost and helpless in the care system.
Over the last five years, the number of 'looked after children' contacting Childline has increased by over 30 per cent. However, this coincides with a rise in the number of children being taken into care since the case of Baby Peter Connolly two years ago. Official figures show that applications to place children in care remain at unprecedented levels.
According to the charity, some children were deeply unsettled and traumatised after being moved several times a year, some as many as 15 times while in care. Others complained of emotionally abusive or uncaring carers and being bullied by other children. Many looked after children had to be counselled about self-harming or running away.
Director of Childline Peter Liver said: "Most children in care are well looked after by dedicated carers and professionals. But a minority continue to be failed by the care system. When this happens, children need to know there is someone there to speak up for them who is independent from the local authority.
"Every day, looked after children talk to us about lives filled with pain and hurt. After the trauma they've been through, children need a special quality of care - at least as good as a good parent can offer.
"Instead, we hear from children who have been beaten or sexually assaulted while in care. Others feel abandoned in care or unloved by their new carers. Some are intimidated by other children. Many have reached crisis point," Mr Liver warned.
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