Children who live in out-of-home care are to form an advisory group on setting and monitoring standards in their homes for the first time.

The group will involve three teenagers and will be created as soon as the coronavirus pandemic is over. They will represent their peers and voice their needs and concerns.

Matthew Vella, chief executive of the Social Care Standards Authority, said it would ensure a “constant stream of feedback” from the children who use their services.

“We often speak about children, but we don’t listen to them enough,” he said.

The setting up of the service-user advisory group forms part of the enactment of the new standards for children in out-of-home care that came into force in February.

They spoke about wanting to meet their biological siblings

The compulsory standards – that are backed by a legal notice – impact around 450 children who live in residential homes and foster families. There are 25 residential homes for children in Malta and a further  four services are in the process of getting a licence.

The standards were compiled following consultation with all stakeholders, including the children.

“They spoke about wanting to meet their biological siblings, having a vaster choice of extracurricular activities,” Vella said.

“They wanted to have a say in food choice and be involved in the design of their flatlets. They also wanted to have a bigger say in their education and subject choice.”

Children will be directly involved in all decisions that involve them – including their care plan, on which they will be consulted and will receive a copy.

Now that the standards are launched, the next step is to monitor and enforce them.

Last year, the authority carried out 81 monitoring visits, and Vella says these will continue throughout 2020 and are currently being carried out through video calls due to coronavirus prevention measures.

What children want – some of the views of those in care 

• “We want to be consulted whether we require support to keep contact with our relatives.” 

• “We feel we do not meet our siblings enough, we would like to have more meetings with them.” 

• “We want to be more involved in house decisions especially how to decorate our room.” 

• “Can we choose what type of sports we can practise?” 

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