1.1 The White Paper: Time for Change identifies a number of key components that should be incorporated within a Pledge for children in care. The Care Council in Hampshire have also highlighted a number of issues they would like addressed. This report details all these requirements and makes proposals about how they should be combined to form the Corporate Parent's `Pledge Offer'.
a) That the Executive Member for Children and Families approves the proposed pledge for children in care, which has been compiled following feedback from the Care Council/Members workshops.
b) That the final Pledge is presented to the Children and Young People Select Committee
3 Purpose of the report
3.1 Hampshire County Council has long acknowledged the importance of facilitating successful outcomes for the children in its care. The Care Matters White Paper, Time for Change (now the Children and Young People's Bill) reinforces the message that all children in care deserve excellent parenting and education, the opportunity to access a wide range of opportunities to develop their talents and skills, emotional wellbeing and stability. The support provided by good parenting is vital in the achievement of positive outcomes for children in care and so the special relationship between these children and local authorities - which fulfil some or all of the parenting task for children in care - is extremely important. A good Corporate Parent should offer everything that a good parent would provide, and more. Indeed, in responses to the consultation on the Care Matters Green Paper, the role of the Corporate Parent was emphasized as the key to successful implementation of the Care Matters agenda.
3.2 There is no definitive `role-profile' of a Corporate Parent as the role is carried out at various levels throughout the local authority and partner organisations - from care workers, to social workers, the police and health services for children. However, there is an expectation that certain key factors will be included as standard to ensure the role is carried out effectively. The Director and Executive Lead Member for Children's Services should have overall responsibility for the corporate parenting of children in care, but a group of senior officials with responsibility for children in care may also be appointed. The accountability and governance arrangements of this lead group need to be clear. Whatever the approach to corporate parenting may be, it is vital that the young people in care themselves are involved and given a strong voice. Particular attention should be given to those young people who find it harder for their voice to be heard: children with disabilities and very young children for example.
3.3 Since the publication of the Green Paper: Care Matters and the subsequent White Paper: Time for Change, the department has established a Care Council and a Corporate Parenting Group. The purpose of this report therefore, is to apprise Members of the work that has taken place to date with the Care Council and the Corporate Parenting Group and to seek approval for the proposed Pledge Offer.
4.1 National Position
4.11 The Green Paper: Care Matters highlighted the following as areas of concern for children in care:
· Being moved around too many times (lack of placement stability)
· Not being able to settle anywhere
· Having problems with school
· Not being able to get help from different services
· Being given too little help when moving on from care
· Not being listened to
· No-one taking responsibility when things go wrong
4.12 The White Paper: Time for Change attempts to show how Government will tackle these issues, with the promotion of good corporate parenting being one such measure. To address these concerns it is proposed that each Local Authority develops and implements a `Pledge' detailing what services they will provide to their children in care. The White Paper proposed that the basic elements of the care pledge comprise the following as a minimum:
· A commitment to involve children in decisions which affect them and to take account of their wishes and expressed feelings about the services they receive.
· Qualified social workers for every child in care with clear arrangements in place for the child in care to contact his/her social worker as necessary
· Effective assessment of individual needs and an up-to-date care plan based on those needs
· A placement with carers who can meet needs
· Contact with siblings and birth parents in line with their care plan
· Regular reviews in which children will be enabled to participate meaningfully (particularly for disabled children with communication difficulties)
· Services which recognise the diverse ethnic and cultural needs of the children
· Access to advocacy services if children have a complaint
· An Independent Reviewing Officer to ensure children's rights are upheld
· Access to high quality free early years provision at age 3 and 4
· A place at a good school
· A designated teacher in school to ensure high quality support in school
· Details of support available to participate in positive leisure time activities
· Support to reduce absence from school
· Help to catch up with school work if they fall behind
· Regular assessments of their health (physical and emotional)
· Details of support available when they move on from care
· The support young people can expect when entering further and higher education
· How the local authority will support young people seeking employment, including employment with training.
4.2 Local Position
4.2.1 The recent Joint Area Review (JAR) of services for children and young people in Hampshire found that Hampshire's contribution to improving outcomes for children in care is good, with much excellent practice to be noted. Progress with Corporate Parenting was considered good, with strong Member leadership and communication between Members, senior officers and children in care being given particular credit. A key weakness identified in the JAR was the insufficient coordination of the complaints process - something which will be key in delivering effective corporate parenting.
4.22 There have been two key developments to respond to the White Paper as follows:
i) The establishment of a Member led Corporate Parenting Group within the auspices of the Children and Young People's Strategic Partnership and linked to the Select Committee. This group comprises Members and relevant officers from across the County Council. The aim of this is to ensure that there is a high level of political support and engagement for this service.
ii)The formation of a Care Council currently comprising 9 children and young people in care supported by the Children's Participation Officer. The group's role is to represent children in care and to make sure the Care Council has direct links to the Director of Children's Services and the Lead Member for Children's Services so that their views can be heard and they are able to influence the services and support they receive. They are also tasked with developing a proposed Pledge of Services to improve the quality of life in care and subsequent outcomes for themselves and their peer group.
4.23 Several members of the Children and Young People Select Committee are already members of the Corporate Parenting Group, led by the Executive Member for Children and Families. This group has met with the Care Council on several occasions and has started to build an understanding of the issues young people in care would like to see addressed by its Corporate Parents. This two-way communication has been effective, fulfils an aspect of the corporate parenting role, and will be continued. It is envisaged that once the Pledge is established both groups will continue to meet and work together to monitor the delivery of the Pledge as well as ensure continued matching of both aspirations and service delivery.
4.24 The Care Council have met and agreed they would like the following elements contained within Hampshire's Pledge:
· Reduce the number of placement moves and being able to stay in placement or not being told they can and then they are then moved.
· Being able to stay in the same school when they want to or move to another one nearer if they prefer
· Staying with the same social worker or significant adult for the time they are in care.
· Having access to an advocate at their formal meetings or when they want to raise concerns or complaints.
· Having more tutoring opportunities.
· Their social workers or PA's having an individual activity budget that they can agree together how this is spent.
· Having more say about where and when their review is held and who attends and they are able to present their needs to their review.
· Move involvement when their care plans are being drawn up.
· More access to activities
4.25 The role of the Corporate Parenting Group is to respond to the proposals from the Care Council by taking the key components identified within the White Paper alongside achievable and realistic local service delivery proposals from the department and reconcile the two.
4.26 Having compared the proposals in the White Paper with the Care Council's Pledge it is apparent that there is nothing within the Care Council's Pledge that is not addressed as a requirement within the White Paper. This provides an opportunity to extend the Pledge and offer a more comprehensive set of commitments. The proposed Pledge as set out below has recently been the subject of debate between members of the Corporate Parenting Group and the Care Council at the national `Take-Over Day' event on 23rd November 2007.
5 The Proposed Pledge
5.1 Be Healthy;
5.1.1 We will ensure you are as healthy as you can be. This doesn't just mean your physical health if you are ill, it also means helping you to live a healthy lifestyle.
It is County policy (in line with legislative requirements) for all children in care to have their health needs assessed and their health promoted. Having received an holistic health assessment, every child in care should have in place a health care plan which addresses their holistic health needs (including mental health). In line with the national indicator, Hampshire's performance is good, although the JAR did highlight some issues in relation to health assessments for pre-school children and in relation to immunisations across the board. An action plan will be drawn up to respond to these issues and acted upon accordingly. As Corporate Parents we have a duty to ensure that children's health care plans, which respond to their needs, are reviewed at prescribed intervals.
5.1.2 We will support you to take part in activities in your leisure time
Hampshire County Council already has a good corporate approach to this issue and improvements are being made all of the time. There is regular free access to all Recreation and Heritage county amenities including residential trips to Calshot. There is a proposal to set up 3 local user groups to work on activities and events starting with a pilot in the Western area. Rushmoor and Hart are in discussions about putting together a ten point sports/outdoor challenge which will incorporate the sailing opportunities funded by the High Sheriff's project. Small grants have been made available from the County Arts Office for children in care and the Music service are actively working in partnership with some of the residential units.
5.2 Stay Safe:
5.2.1 We will ensure, as far as possible, that you have one adult who can support you throughout your time in care
This is an issue which young people both nationally and locally have said is important to them. As well as being qualified, young people want some stability from this key adult in their lives. Retention of qualified social workers is and has always been a challenge, specifically in some parts of Hampshire and whilst we would aspire to every child having access to a qualified worker as and when they wish, and on an ongoing basis, it will not always be possible for all children in care to have access to the same worker throughout.
5.2.2 We will work with you to agree your needs and draw up a plan stating how these will be best met
This is a statutory requirement. All children in our care should have in place a core assessment and a plan which responds to the assessed needs. Care plans should be updated as and when there are changes within the plan's objectives and the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) should be scrutinising this at every statutory review. All social workers are trained to fulfil this role and their supervision should ensure that it is carried out to an acceptable standard
5.2.3 We will try our best to find carers who are most able to meet your individual needs. If we are not able to find carers from the same ethnic background as you, we will make sure that the carers who are looking after you know how to support you in the best way.
It is the department's aim to place children with carers who are most able to meet their needs. However, there is some way to go to ensure that there is an element of placement choice for children who need to be looked after away from home. There is a national shortage of foster carers and the department is looking at ways that we can retain and support carers more efficiently and recruit substantially more carers. We are also developing many new services, e.g. locality teams, Children's Centres etc in order to support families where children are at risk of coming into care, the aim being to reduce our care population, thereby having an increased choice of carers.
Our carer population needs to reflect the diversity of children in our care to ensure that needs and services are matched. This will continue to be addressed within recruitment campaigns. Should children not be matched to a carer of the same ethnic group, plans are put in place to ensure that the diverse needs of the children are met through other means. In order to ensure the workforce is sufficiently trained and addresses issues of diversity the department's strategic training group has agreed that there should be cross branch training on equality and diversity focussing specifically on anti-oppressive practice. This should also include an awareness of professionals to ensure that children are able to access services appropriate to their needs.
5.3 Enjoy and Achieve:
5.3.1 We will ensure that children aged 3 and 4 will have access to high quality free early years education.
Research has shown that the take up of early years provision for children in care in Hampshire is at the same rate as other children. Training has been carried out by the Team for the Education for Children in Care (TECiC) and the Early Education and Childcare Unit (EECU) to raise awareness of the importance of early years education with carers, family placement and family support social workers. An early years Personal Education Plan (PEP) has also been developed and is in place.
5.3.2 We will champion your right to do well at school. This will include:
_ Finding the best school to meet your individual needs and ensure you can stay at that school even if you have to move home.
_ Ensuring that you attend school regularly and provide you with support if this becomes difficult.
_ We will provide help for you to catch up with your school work if you fall behind.
National research has shown that children in care are less likely to be placed in high achieving schools and disproportionately more likely to be in failing schools. Research in Hampshire has shown that this is not the case but the definition of a `good school' is a matter of debate, for some children this will be those schools who have a track record of high academic achievement, for others it may be those with a strong pastoral focus. There is still some resistance by schools to admit children in care which is being overcome in part by a strong partnership with the County Admissions Team who support with `direction' where required, using the `In Year Fair Access Protocol'. Further work needs to be done to track the levels of delay but the time spent out of school as a consequence of this has contributed to the poor attendance issue and the department's performance in relation to this national indicator. The Care Council have expressed a wish for children to be able to stay at the same school even when they move placement, unless they feel strongly that they want to move. Stability of school is crucial for reasons of attainment at all times, but particularly in years 9, 10 and 11. Achieving this will also avoid the lengthy wait for admission into a new school.
Attendance at school must be an absolute priority as part of the Pledge offer as the department's performance is having a profound effect on levels of achievement. There are several key reasons for children being absent from school; because they choose not to attend; because they have no educational provision and experience delay before this is secured; because they are unwell; because they have been excluded and because their carers take them on holiday during term time. A detailed action plan as a result of the initial Annual Performance Assessment (APA) letter has been written which tackles each of these causes in turn.
Hampshire does not currently have a system of 1-1 tutoring for children in care. Some support is offered by the TECiC but this does not have the capacity to be substantial. This should fall to schools as their core responsibility and monitored as part of a high quality PEP. The recent allocation of DSG funding to schools for Children in Care should support this and they will be required to account for the progress the children are making and the support they are offering where this is a concern. The Care Council have asked for more 1-1 tutoring opportunities but identifying funding for this could be a challenge. A full scoping exercise would have to take place to ascertain the level of demand before any detailed funding proposals could be made. A pilot is being set up with the University of Winchester and Aim Higher who will recruit `buddies' for young people in residential units in order to encourage their aspirations in education. It is not clear at this point whether any direct 1-1 work will be undertaken as it was felt a direct link with the undergraduate teaching course would not be the primary link.
5.3.3 All schools will have a teacher who is specially trained to support children who are in care.
All schools have a Designated Teacher (DT) in place but the way this role is carried out varies enormously. Some schools, particularly in the primary sector have little experience of children in care, so keeping their knowledge up to date is a constant challenge. The TECiC hold local training sessions for DTs as well as regular DT networks meetings but the attendance at both of these support events is variable. The guidance from the White Paper is that DTs ought to be qualified teachers and be at a senior enough level to be able to exert influence. This is certainly not the situation in many secondary schools where the role often falls to a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) or a pastoral lead and is rarely a member of the school's Senior Leadership team (SLT). To improve the quality of PEPs it is thought that DTs need to take increased accountability and ensure that appropriate targets are set and action followed up. To properly fulfil this role DTs will need to have a sound teaching and learning background and be able to commit resources to the plan to meet the child's identified needs, i.e. be a member of the school's SLT.
5.34 We will work towards providing you with a computer to support you with your school work.
This is not part of the core Pledge offer as recommended by the White Paper, but is an issue which is important to young people and their carers. Currently the department does not provide all children in care with computers and internet access is expected to be provided through carers' allowances. A pilot project is being proposed which will look at increasing access to computers in all residential units as well as a small number of foster homes through the Local Public Service Agreement (LPSA) grant. The level of potential demand has not be established and it is not clear how many carers have access to the internet. An audit of need is planned.
5.4 Making a Positive Contribution:
5.4.1 We will make sure that you are involved in how your day-to-day needs are met. This will include you having a say about any contact with your family.
This is one of the key principles of the Children Act 1989 and one which needs significantly more work in order that children and young people do not feel that their participation is something that the department responds to in a tokenistic way. Actively involving children and young people in the development and implementation of their care plans is a fundamental right for them and one which the department needs to uphold in concrete terms. The challenge is to ensure that our children are able to actively participate in decisions that affect them, alongside professionals taking decisions that promote their welfare - this does not always mean that children can have what they want. A delicate balance has to be struck and the age and understanding of the child is crucial in terms of how they are involved. Contact with family (when in the best interests of the child) is a statutory obligation and one which the department should uphold.
In terms of contribution of young people to the development of policies and procedures related to the care system, the Care Council has now been established and currently comprises 9 young people. They meet quarterly to discuss key issues and offer mutual support but will need considerable officer support to ensure they act as representatives for their peers. Momentum will also need to be maintained so that their contribution remains valid and that new young people have the opportunity to join and contribute.
5.4.2 All of the plans which affect you will be checked by an Independent Reviewing Officer at your review. This will be to make sure that the plans meet your needs and that everyone is doing what they should be. You will also be given the opportunity to meet with him or her to give your views about how the meeting should take place.
All children's care plans should be reviewed by an IRO in line with regulations.
On an individual level, work is underway with the Independent Reviewing Service to make reviews more flexible with variations on the format. This could include ensuring that young people can present their views in a way that suits them and being able to invite their own attendees.
5.4.3 If you are not happy about how you are being supported whilst in care, we will make sure you are helped to complain about this.
The JAR process identified co-ordination of the complaints process as a serious weakness in services to children in care. A detailed action plan has now been drawn up. There is currently a pool of informal advocates who are being trained to represent children and young people at their reviews, Child Protection (CP) conferences, Family Group Conferences (FGCs) and the complaints process.
5.5 Achieve Economic Wellbeing:
5.5.1 We will provide you with support when you move on from care, including helping you to make choices about further education, training or employment.
Hampshire has dedicated care leavers teams in recognition that these young people are a particularly vulnerable group. The care leaver's legislation is very prescriptive about what support should be provided up to the age of 25 and the department is proactive in ensuring that all young care leavers have a Personal Advisor (PA) who formulates a Pathway Plan, in consultation with the young person and other key professionals. The Pathway Plan is a continuation of the Care Plan and sets out a range of key objectives about how the young person will be supported. Every young care leaver is provided with a pack of information, alongside their Pathway Plan, which provides information about services they can access and will receive throughout their transition to independence.
The raising of the compulsory participation age (ROCPA) to ensure that 100% of young people are in learning by 2015 will require significant support to be provided to young people in and leaving care to ensure that they can make the right choices about their future. The recent proposals for services for young people in Hampshire made children in care one of their priority groups for the Consortia Teams. This increased capacity within Children's Services will ensure that young people receive quality advice, guidance and support for whatever route they choose. This will need to be monitored to ensure that this continues to be the case once the new structure is implemented. As part of Hampshire's commitment to young people in care the Hampshire Own Grown Programme includes provision for work experience and apprenticeship opportunities across the whole county council. As an extension to this the Youth Offending Team (YOT) have secured funding from the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) for a pilot programme to support young people who have offended or are at risk of offending This includes care leavers as a priority group. Should the evaluation prove to be successful, consideration will be given to mainstreaming this work. All colleges in Hampshire have a Designated Tutor system, based on the DT system in schools which provides a single point of contact and support. Hampshire has a strong relationship with local higher education (HE) providers and has established a compact system with local institutions. The University of Winchester offers a bursary to any children in care who successfully apply and for the last two years have offered a residential summer school taster event funded by Aim Higher. The Care Leavers Service offer significant support for young people in HE up to the age of 25, which covers course fees, accommodation and some subsistence.
6.1 Implementation of the Pledge will encompass many aspects of work across the county council. It will form a key plank of the Children and Young People's plan and be delivered as part of the wider work associated with the implementation of the Children and Young People's Bill. The monitoring of its implementation will be through the CYP Select Committee. It has also been agreed that there will be bi-annual meetings of the Corporate Parenting Group and the Care Council where the Pledge will be a standing agenda item.
6.2 The proposals in this report are expected to contribute to all aspects of the County Council's corporate priorities as it addresses how we can most effectively deliver our role as corporate parents.
6.3 It also supports all 5 outcomes of the Children Act
7.1 The Proposed Pledge has been put together after consultation with the Care Council, the Corporate Parenting Group and CSDMT. The final Pledge offer was the subject of debate on national takeover day on 23 November 2007 and will remain on the agenda for both the Care Council and the Corporate Parenting Group for the coming year to ensure that it remains relevant.
To be determined. It is not yet clear what central government finance will be available to support the implementation of the White Paper. However, many of the elements of the Pledge are about delivering statutory responsibilities within mainstream funding.
Vacancy rates at front-line social worker level within Hampshire remains one of our biggest challenges to address. A number of the areas within the draft pledge are reliant upon statutory processes being adhered to, which in some areas of the County is proving difficult because of the high vacancy levels. A full recruitment strategy is detailed in the JAR Action Plan.
This has been addressed as part of section 5.23.
LINK(S) TO CORPORATE STRATEGY
Hampshire safer and more secure for all
Enhancing our quality of place
This proposal does not link to the Corporate Strategy but, nevertheless, requires a decision because:
Section 100 D - Local Government Act 1972 - background documents
The following documents discuss facts or matters on which this report, or an important part of it, is based and have been relied upon to a material extent in the preparation of this report.
NB: the list excludes
1. Published works
2. Documents which disclose exempt or confidential information as defined in the Act.
List documents here or type `none'.