Hampshire County Council

Executive Member for Children's Services

Item 12

23 March 2006

Actions resulting from the Inspection of the Hampshire Adoption Agency by the Commission for Social Care Inspection in November 2005.

Report of the Director of Children's Services

2.1 Maximising life opportunities for children who are looked after by ensuring that permanent families are recruited to care for children who cannot be cared for at home, resulting in the best possible outcomes for those children.

Hampshire County Council

Children's Services Policy Review Committee

Item 12

14 March 2006

Actions resulting from the Inspection of the Hampshire Adoption Agency by the Commission for Social Care Inspection in November 2005.

Report of the Director of Children's Services

1.6.1 Maximising life opportunities for children who are looked after by ensuring that permanent families are recruited to care for children who cannot be cared for at home, resulting in the best possible outcomes for those children.

1.6.2 Building strong and safe communities by helping children who are looked after to develop strong and permanent links with a new community, enabling them to fully participate in and contribute to the life of that community. In addition, by supporting those individuals and families whose child is placed for adoption, through the provision of emotional and practical support.

1.6.3 Improving services by providing a benchmark against which Hampshire County Council can improve its performance and continually develop the service provided by the adoption agency.

1.6.4 The inspection process and resulting recommendations support all five outcomes required in `Every Child Matters' and the Children Act 2004, by ensuring that services are managed safely and provide safe care for children; that children's health needs are met and promoted, and that they are encouraged and enabled to achieve their educational potential, at all stages of their lives and into adulthood. The service should support everyone involved in the adoption process, so that children can achieve and enjoy leisure and social activities which enable them to participate fully in the life of their community. Children who have special needs, physical or emotional, should be able to expect to be found adoptive families in the same way as their peers, and should also expect to be able to access services which will enable them to become as independent as possible and to move into careers and employment which will be rewarding and fulfilling.

    1.1 STATUTORY REQUIREMENTS

This section sets out the actions, which must be taken so that the registered person/s meets the Care Standards Act 2000, Voluntary Adoption and the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2003 or Local Authority Adoption service Regulations 2003 and the national Minimum Standards. The Registered Provider(s) must comply with the given timescales.

No.

Standard

Regulation

Requirement

Completion date for action

Actions being taken to address statutory requirement

1

AD2

Local Authority Adoption agency Regulations 2003. Regulation 9. (2) (a) (b) (c)

The agency must ensure that the written child protection policies and procedures are robustly followed to ensure thorough protection of children placed or to be placed for adoption.

31/1/06

The procedures have been re issued to all staff and training has been commissioned. This will be mandatory for all staff in the Adoption and Permanence Service - 2 half days each year . One member of staff from each team will act as a co-ordinator in conjunction with the Team manager.

2

AD2

The Children Act 1989

The Agency must ensure that the practice of `blind sightings' ceases.

13/1/06

This has ceased and will be replaced by increasing the use of video recordings of children.

3

AD11

Adoption Agency Regulations 1983. Regulation 5 (4)

The agency must ensure that the panel is quorate at all times. The panel must be constituted under the Fostering Regulations 2002 as well, if it is to consider plans for children who have a concurrency plan who are to be placed with foster/adopters or the recommendation of concurrency and long term foster carers.

31.01.06

In future any approval of a carer under the Fostering Services Regulations 2002, will be presented to the Fostering Panel.

4

AD10

Adoption Agency Regulations 1983. Regulation 10.

The agency's adoption panel must discontinue the practise of making recommendations in principle.

13/01/06

This has ceased as of 30th December 2005.

5

AD28AD19Ad15

Local Authority Adoption Agency Regulations 2003. Regulation 11. Schedule 3 and schedule 4.

The agency must ensure that all staff working for the purposes of the adoption agency, (including all administrative staff, panel members and sessional staff) have all checks and references carried out, and that evidence of this is held on their personal file.

10/02/06

A joint action plan between the adoption service and the HR team has been approved by the senior management team, to ensure that this work is carried out over the next three months and audited subsequently for continued compliance.

6

AD1

Local Authority Adoption Agency Regulations 2003. Regulation 2.

The agency must make some additions to its Statement of Purpose to ensure it fully complies with Schedule 1.

10/02/06

The Statement of purpose has been updated and the amended version will be presented to Elected Members for approval in July 2006.

7

AD14

Local Authority Adoption Agency Regulations 2003. Regulation 10.

The agency must ensure that there is a sufficient number of qualified, competent and experienced persons working for the purposes of the Adoption service.

31/03/06

The department is currently remodelling in response to Every Child Matters and the new structure will reflect the need to prioritise children whose plan is for permanence away from their birth parents, to ensure that an appropriate number of suitably qualified staff are allocated to each task. In particular, the Adoption Support Team has approval to double the number of staff in order to respond to statutory requirements.

Whilst it has been recognised that the provision of a CAMH service for children in this area of work is a priority, additional resources are not currently available.

8

AD16

Local Authority Adoption Agency Regulations 2003. Regulation 7.

The agency must ensure that its service is managed with sufficient care, competence and skill.

10/02/06

All staff have contributed to a forum where they have identified key priorities for their own support and development. A communication strategy was also agreed to ensure that staff feel listened to, and can share and develop good practise across the service.

RECOMMENDATIONS

These recommendations relate to National Minimum Standards and are seen as good practice for the Registered Provider/s to consider carrying out.

No.

Refer to Standard

Good Practice Recommendations

Actions being taken to address recommendations

1

AD2

The agency should develop a recruitment strategy, which includes plans for the implementation and evaluation of effective strategies to recruit sufficient adopters to meet the needs of the range of children waiting for adoption locally. This strategy should also include the details of the pilot project and the ways in which this project work is linked to the rest of the adoption work.

Proposals in respect of implementing the recruitment strategy and piloting arrangements for developing a specific family finding role to complement this, need to be underpinned by further investment in the service.

Senior managers have asked for detailed work to be carried out by the summer to ascertain the viability of this.

2

AD3

The agency should ensure that people who are interested in becoming adoptive parents are welcomed without prejudice. Any staff preconceptions about who will best make good adoptive parents should be challenged to ensure an inclusive approach to single carers, older carers and gay and lesbian carers.

As part of the review of the marketing strategy

(above) a review of the literature will be carried out, including service users in the process, to ensure that it is inclusive.

Further diversity training will be commissioned on a rolling programme, to ensure that staff continue to be aware of the issues in respect of recruitment and support of carers.

3.

AD2

The agency should improve processes to develop a more robust approach to identifying and monitoring children for whom adoption is the plan.

Adoption and Children Act training will emphasise the need to identify children whose plans are for adoption, early in the planning process.

In addition, the current monthly monitoring arrangement will include more robust identification and tracking of children early in the planning process.

4.

AD2

The agency should ensure that it makes robust efforts to ensure that children are matched with adopters who best meet their assessed needs, in particular their religious needs.

The recruitment strategy will emphasise the need to target recruitment towards specific carers who can meet the diverse needs of children requiring adoptive families.

Staff have been reminded of the requirement to prioritise meeting the religious and cultural needs of children when identifying an adopter.. The departmental policy statement has also been amended to emphasise this.

5.

AD2

The agency should ensure that a qualified psychologist, independent of the case, carries out all sibling relationship/attachment assessments.

The agency will review their practice guidance on carrying out sibling assessments to ensure that these assessments are undertaken independently of the case holder, in conjunction with other qualified staff.

The views of other professionals in partner agencies will be sought in order to meet the requirements of such assessments.

6.

AD4

The agency should ensure that any applicants with a disability are treated fairly and their needs are met so they can fully participate in the training and assessment.

The agency will ensure that applicants with a disability are treated fairly by ensuring that all venues are user friendly and accessible, and that all literature reflects the diversity of applicants.

7.

AD4

The agency should ensure that it has a clearly set out preparation programme made available to all prospective adopters, which avoids delays in the process.

In the light of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, a preparation programme has been agreed which ensures that the required timescales are met.

If there is an unavoidable delay, the reasons why are recorded on the applicants file.

8.

AD4AD4

The adoption agency should ensure that it regularly reviews and evaluates the outcomes of the "Sure Start" programme for prospective adopters. The effectiveness of the preparation programme should also be formally evaluated and reviewed annually.

A review of all training and assessment of applicants will be undertaken to include Surestart but also to ensure that any review of the training programme by the county adoption team is monitored and takes into account service users views

9

AD4

The adoption agency should ensure a more analytical based approach to carrying out assessments. The assessment also needs to contain more investigation into the applicant's abilities to manage diversity issues (particularly sexuality issues). An agreed policy about the number and range of references and checks should be agreed and implemented by the adoption staff.

Adult attachment interview training will be commissioned for all the County Adoption Team, to undertake this style of interviewing and assessment.

All staff have been reminded of the departmental policy on the number and range of references and checks.

10

AD5

The agency should ensure that it provides as much information as possible on the child to be placed for adoption; in particular it should develop a policy and procedure for the use of Child Appreciation Days.

Permanence staff to identify the lessons learnt from the life appreciation days that have been undertaken so far and to produce guidance for their future use.

11

AD5Ad23

The agency should ensure that child care and adoption staff fully understand the matching process.

Training on the new Adoption and Children Act will ensure that staff are aware of the process for matching and linking children with adopters.

12

AD10

The agency should ensure that the panel's policies fully comply with this standard. Panel policies concerning the handling of any declarations of interest and the management of inappropriate behaviour or language by panel members should be more robustly managed.

All panel members have been issued with a new set of performance requirements and associated standards . Annual appraisal have been set up for the coming year. Further training regarding anti discriminatory language and practice will be provided.

13

AD10

The agency should ensure the panel members receive progress reports on individual cases on a regular basis, in order for them to fully exercise their quality assurance function.

The Adoption Adviser will ensure that panel members are routinely updated on cases as part of the business agenda.

14

AD19

The agency should ensure that child care social workers receive further training, advice and guidance on the writing of a child form E document (including content, language and style) to ensure that it fully reflects the needs of its various audiences and functions and ensures a fair and accurate portrayal of the information provided.

All permanence reports for panel will be undertaken by the permanence staff or by staff being advised by more experienced colleagues.

In addition training on the new requirements under the Adoption and Children Act will incorporate this recommendation.

15

AD10

The agency should ensure that feedback received by attendees of the adoption panel is formally evaluated to inform future practice.

The adoption adviser will ensure that feedback is collated and reported regularly to all parties to ensure that it is taken into account in developing practise.

16

AD19Ad28AD15

The agency should ensure that telephone inquiries are made to verify the written references of all those working for the purposes of the adoption service, before they begin work.

This practise is already in place in respect of staff recruited recently. In respect of historic appointments, a joint action plan is being presented to senior managers as described in the Statutory Requirements ( no. 5)

17

AD21

The agency should ensure that the work of the adoption support team and community therapists is regularly reviewed, to ensure staffing levels are sufficient to meet the demand in this growth area.

This is addressed in Statutory Requirements (no. 7).Demand on the service will be regularly monitored.

18

AD6

The agency should ensure that it has a clear written strategy for working with and supporting adopters. This strategy should include all the recent developments across the department and must be shared with both adopters and staff. The agency should ensure that it improves the quality of the written information to approved adopters about the matching, introductions and placement of children.

Agreed- this will be carried out over the coming year, in consultation with service users and in partnership with Adoption UK.

19

AD6

The agency should ensure that staff are fully aware of the services and facilities available to support adopters following placement and are helped and supported to complete the adoption support plans.

The above strategy to be shared with all staff who will be regularly updated on service developments.

Team Managers to be required to ensure that all staff are kept informed of the requirements in respect of adoption support plans.

20

AD18

The agency together with relevant health services should ensure that the work of the medical advisers is regularly evaluated and monitored, and that the protocols reflect what has been agreed in this process.

Adoption Advisor and Strategic Service Manager to meet with the medical advisors to monitor the requests for medicals and for meetings with families, in order that any unmet need can be identified and representations made to the relevant authority.

21

AD9AD8AD7

The agency should develop a clear written strategy for working with birth family members both before and after adoption, including providing relevant information about local and national support groups.

Agreed- this will be carried out over the coming year, following consultation with service users and a formal tendering process.

22

AD9

The agency should develop a comprehensive policy and procedure for managing direct contact arrangements, to ensure proper planning, preparation and debriefing needs are met.

The departments has agreed the funding of additional qualified Social Work hours in order to ensure that this element of the service is fully developed.

23

AD20

The agency should ensure that the professional supervision and consultation provided for social work staff provides an opportunity for reflective/analytical practice, as well as being task centred and the decisions agreed at annual appraisals are followed through.

Operational Service Manager to review all Performance Development Reviews with each Team manager and audit a sample of supervision notes and PDR's across the service. Review in 6 months time.

24

AD21

The agency should ensure that adoption social workers have the opportunity to be involved in a broad range of adoption activity to enable them to develop a more child focused service.

A review of the county Adoption Team role will be undertaken , including their involvement in the family finding process. Agreement has already been given that staff continue the practise of role `swops' with colleagues and that special guardianship assessments should become part of their remit.

25

AD19

The agency should ensure that the role of the proposed support workers in the adoption team is clearly defined, that these staff have the knowledge and understanding of the adoption process and that they are supervised appropriately.

Role profiles and a service specification, as well as proposals for evaluating this role will be agreed by the senior management team prior to recruitment.

26

AD20

The agency should ensure that the role of the professional/panel adviser is managed effectively to prevent confusion and inconsistent practices.

The role of the adviser is to be reviewed in respect of the relationship with the rest of the service.

27

AD20

The agency should ensure that there is an adequate level of clerical and administrative support, office equipment and infrastructure, to enable staff to carry out their duties in an effective and efficient manner.

Requested items of equipment for the Permanence & Adoption service have been agreed and will be purchased immediately. Given the department's re-organisation into a Children Services, the level of clerical and administration support will need to be addressed within the proposal for the new department.

28

AD27

The agency should ensure that separate records are kept for the collation of complaints and allegations and that these are monitored regularly.

Separate records to be set within the children & carers files, outlining the complaints and allegation and significant events in relation to that case. Service Manager to maintain a spreadsheet of all complaints and allegations in relation to the service and to regularly review these with the Team Managers, on a 6 monthly period.

29

AD25AD27

The agency should ensure that the system used to monitor the quality and adequacy of records is "rolled out" to all adoption and permanency teams; that written entries are legible; and that decisions by supervisors are recorded on case files, signed and dated.

All previous audits to be copied and placed on files and the auditing process to continue. Team Managers to ensure they see files on a regular basis, and evidence this either by signing the Statutory Review or the statutory visit or when any decision is taken.

30

AD25

The agency should ensure that information is appropriately filed to ensure there is no breach of confidentiality.

Agreed. This has been raised with Records management staff to ensure that guidance for staff complies with Data Protection and access to records legislation.

31

AD25

The agency should ensure that a system is developed specifically for children's adoption files and adopters files that is relevant and appropriate for the information that is required to be stored there.

Agreed. This is to be developed with colleagues as above.

32

AD29

The agency should ensure that appropriate security systems are in place at all the identified adoption premises.

Premises section has been notified of this requirement and will undertake the necessary action to ensure that the files and premises are safe.

33

AD29

The agency's disaster recovery plan needs to address the issue of security of open adoption files held in different offices across the county. It should undertake a risk assessment on these files to ensure that damage by fire and water is minimised.

The Disaster Recovery Plan is being updated to reflect this requirement.