Five things to ask prospective parliamentary candidates in your constituency

Five things to ask prospective parliamentary candidates in your constituency

Written by Home for Good

The general election called for 08 June 2017 has taken a lot of people by surprise – including many MPs.

In the coming weeks there will be hustings events all over the UK, where prospective parliamentary candidates will be debating policies and answering questions, and these candidates will also be canvassing for support with their campaign teams in other ways. It’s hard enough in a normal election to think of good questions to ask political parties, let alone a sudden one like this – all too often it’s only afterwards we think of what we should have asked.

Obviously, there will be a few hot topics that are high on the agenda for many to want to talk about, but we know that as someone who cares about vulnerable children, you may also want to ask useful and significant questions for their sake, if someone were to knock on your door or catch you in the street. 

So here are some ideas for things you could ask about, to encourage candidates to think seriously about the needs of vulnerable children in their prospective constituency.

1) ‘If you’re elected, how will you speak up for looked after children?’

MPs are elected to advocate for all their constituents in government, which includes looked after children. While it isn’t always possible to find numbers of children in care for parliamentary constituencies due to the way boundaries are set, it is possible to find local authority statistics for England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland by clicking on these links. (Although do take note of when the statistics were taken, as it is usually the previous financial year.)

Knowing these numbers may be useful as you engage in conversations, and they may even come as a surprise to your candidate. You could ask them what they will do to ensure they represent these children and young children in the next Parliament.

2) ‘Do you think the government should be taking in unaccompanied child refugees from Europe?’

Under the current government, a law was passed that allowed child refugees to be brought in from Europe, often known as the ‘Dubs amendment’. The government recently announced that no more children would be brought in this way. Read Home for Good’s full statement about this here.

Ask your candidate if they would consider reviving this pathway, which would enable us to offer care to unaccompanied children who are in desperate need.

3) ‘How will you ensure that children who are in care or who have previously been in care have good access to mental health services?’

The trauma that many vulnerable children experience in their early years will so often leave them with lifelong challenges, and mental health is such a significant aspect of this. Yet we have heard far too many stories of adopted children and children in care struggling to access mental health services or, in some cases, being denied the care and support they require.

What will your candidate and their party do to improve this, to ensure that all children are able to access the care the need in a timely and age-appropriate way?

4) ‘What will you do to improve the experiences of children in care, particularly children and young people in foster care?’

The previous government recently launched a national fostering stocktake in England, with a view to identifying where improvements should be made. The new government will come to power as the first stage of evidence gathering for this draws to a close, and will therefore have the opportunity to make positive changes to the system.

While other parts of the UK may not be part of this specifically, questions around the foster care system are always relevant. How will the candidate ensure foster carers be better supported or protected? What does their party see as a priority for the care of looked after children? How will they seek to regulate foster care provision?

5) ‘I am hugely passionate about _____, what could you do about that?’

The best question you could ask will be the thing that matters most to you or others you care about. Are you an adoptive parent frustrated that you can’t access the Adoption Support Fund? Do you really want to foster but house prices are keeping you from having a spare room? Are you worried that the asylum-seeking child you foster might be told they can’t stay in the UK when they turn 18? These are exactly the kinds of questions candidates need to hear.

If you do ask a particular question, we would love to hear what it is through Facebook or Twitter – it may also inspire others to ask it too.

When you’re talking to parliamentary candidates, don’t be surprised if they don’t know much about foster care, adoption, or looked after children. There are lots of issues they need to get their heads around and this may not be one they have any experience of.

But this is an opportunity for them to meet someone in their constituency who cares about looked after children and who can explain these issues to them. If you feel comfortable, you could offer to speak to them further about these issues if they’re elected.

Home for Good is more than happy to brief MPs and their staff on foster care, adoption, looked after children, and the place of faith in civil society. If the candidate you speak to wants to know more, please get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to speak to you and them about how they can help children in care as an elected official.

Home for Good is passionate about advocating for policies and processes that will benefit vulnerable children. If you feel able to support our work by giving to us, we would be really grateful.

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