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These Are Our Bairns: A guide for community planning partnerships on being a good corporate parent

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Cartoon Caption11 / THE INDEPENDENT SECTOR (voluntary organisations, faith groups, private care providers)

"I am actively involved with a high number of children in foster care and young people in children's units, as well as some young people in residential schools across Scotland.

"Young people have my phone number in case they want to get in touch with me, as do foster carers, residential and social workers. My role is pure and simply to reflect young people's viewpoints, often in formal decision-making forums.

"I will meet the child beforehand [before attending a Children's Hearing] to find out what they want me to say to the panel. Ideally, you should empower young people to speak for themselves. But if they can't, I'll be their voice.

"If you are able to make someone feel a bit better that's a reward in itself. If, by taking forward an issue, you are able to effect change which makes a positive difference for a young person, that's what it's about. There's real satisfaction for me when young people feel that my involvement has helped to improve their situation."

Liz Ray, Who Cares? Scotland, East Ayrshire.

For children and young people who are Looked After, it is our job to ensure that we are creating as many opportunities as it is possible to create; and that we put in place safety nets at every stage of their journey, which can help safeguard each child or young person when they come across barriers to success. It is our job to create a safe environment for Scotland's children and young people and to assist them as they navigate their potentially trickier journey through life.

"In this day and age there is no excuse for young people not to have access to information to the support that they need to go into further education or employment. Support for young people who may have been in the system for a long time and not have the necessary skills required when moving into their own home … teach them skills that they may otherwise have gained from their parent." (Anonymous)

Most parents do not bring up children on their own - they rely to a greater or lesser extent on extended family members to support them. In a corporate family, those extended family members include independent sector providers.

All providers must be able to demonstrate that they can deliver the good parenting and support that corporate parents expect for their children and young people. They must respect and work in partnership as part of the extended corporate family. This should be clarified before deciding on a placement for a child.

For some children, emergency placements will be inevitable at some times. These should be kept to a minimum. Ongoing relationships between purchasers and potential providers should make sure that most of the necessary protocols and arrangements are already in place rather than starting afresh with each placement. Establish and maintaining positive relationships is equally important between organisations as it is between individuals.

Contact between the placing authority and the provider should be frequent and purposeful, particularly when the child is placed a long way from home. Both the placing authority and the host have a responsibility to meet the child or young person's need for contact and to work out between them how best to arrange it, with regular reviews.

Communication is equally important in community placements and with families. It is important that the carer fully understands the reasons for the additional support or intervention and is committed to the desired outcomes; they need to be aware of the support they should be providing to make sure that the young person fully engages with the work, and any information-sharing protocols which are being used.

Planning for children and young people must take account of their short and longer term needs. We need to plan and prepare for the end of a placement from the beginning. The transition from care back to the birth family or into independence is crucial, and can be particularly problematic for those placed outwith their home authority. Providers should engage in planning for a smooth transition, making sure supports are in place to enable the young person to return successfully to their community or to establish themselves independently.

Even the shortest intervention can have a big impact on a young person's life, and we should all be mindful of our part in the bigger picture, contributing to any permanence planning, children's hearings reviews or other activity about the child or young person's future.

You will want to:

  • Make sure that your services are individualised around the particular needs of the child.
  • Demonstrate how you can add value to the corporate family; how your service delivers better outcomes for Looked After children and young people, or care leavers.
  • Demonstrate that what you offer is worth the investment, in terms of outcomes for children and young people and preventing the need for higher tariff intervention or services later.
  • Build excellent relationships with purchasers, and participate in community planning processes so that you can influence local service design.
  • Be ambitious for your service as well as for the children and young people you serve.
  • Establish clear protocols around finance and information-sharing, clearly define responsibilities and demonstrate that your business practices are efficient and effective.
  • Maintain regular and effective contact with the placing authority.
  • Encourage the placing authority to maintain regular and genuine contact with the child.
  • Avoid emergency placements where possible, and in any event make sure that contractual/financial arrangements are sorted out in advance of the child being placed.
  • Involve children and young people in the design and development of your services.
  • Actively seek feedback from your purchasers and engage in genuine dialogue to make sure they understand what you can offer and you develop your services so that they are fit for purpose.
  • Actively promote and participate in throughcare and aftercare planning from the earliest possible stage.
  • Make sure that your workforce is competent, confident and flexible.

HOW WILL I KNOW I'VE MADE A DIFFERENCE?

  • When you have relevant, person-centred and flexible contractual arrangements in place with your purchasers.
  • When children and young people with whom you work have better outcomes, whether in terms of education, employability, health or any other aspect of life.
  • When the children and young people with whom you work have seamless, successful transitions into independence, back to their communities or universal services or back to their parent(s).
  • When young people are unaware of the financial arrangements and procedures underpinning their placements, and the placement is not adversely affected by financial disputes.
  • When your purchasing local authorities communicate effectively with you, listen to your views and regard you as an effective community planning partner.
  • When the children or young people in your care are in regular contact with their social worker or other lead professional.
  • When you listen to the views of children and young people, and to the views of your purchasers, and you are able to show you have responded.
  • When you have excellent quality assurance mechanisms in place.