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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 Caption05 / CHIEF EXECUTIVES

"Ultimately, as the council's head of paid service, I'm responsible for all that the council does and it's hard to imagine anything more important than the life circumstances of those children for whom we have had to step into their parents' shoes. I have to satisfy myself that we are doing everything we possibly can do to secure much better outcomes for them than historically, they may have experienced.

"I need to know the reasons for us looking after [East Ayrshire's Looked After children]. It's not just about catering for the here and now, it's preventing the circumstances in future which require them to be Looked After. I need to know where they are and know that we are positively intervening in their lives and that we are inspirational for them, providing any kind of support they need in order to be all they can be.

"We want the best possible outcomes for children we look after. Sadly when you look at the life circumstances of these children, over time you find significant disadvantage both educationally and socially. There's a much greater likelihood of them getting into trouble and not reaching their potential.

"For many, coming into the care system can also signal an escalation of difficulty which they carry into adulthood. So what we need to do is secure better outcomes for them so they are able to enjoy childhood and adolescence and able to reach their potential and make a positive contribution to the community. In short, you want for these children, what you want for your own.

"When you become a parent yourself you realise how much you want to do for your own child, and how you need to radically raise your voice for children who don't have their parents there for them."

Fiona Lees, Chief Executive, East Ayrshire Council.

It is essential that the individuals and agencies who form the corporate parent for Scotland's Looked After children and young people are more aware of and alert to their children's needs and work together to deliver for them.

"It is important for the heads of care to know the views of young people in care. That way they will be able to make decisions and plan ahead-knowing what young people in care want." (Sam)

Chief executives are uniquely placed as responsible officers for the organisation as a whole, asw well as for its relationships with other key partners. As chief executive, you have the authority and overall responsibility to make a real difference in the lives of Looked After children and young people and care leavers. You must make sure that their interests are taken into account when major decisions are being made both within your own organisation and within your community planning partnership.

From a community planning perspective, real and effective joined-up working and the strength of shared resources make a significant impact on the lives of our Looked After children. From a chief executive's perspective, the interests of children and young people should therefore be placed firmly within this wider corporate family of community planning partners.

Being a corporate parent in the local authority context equates in many ways to being a birth parent. You have the overall responsibility for ensuring that Looked After children and young people and care leavers grow up to be successful, confident and responsible citizens. You are also well positioned to shape the health, leisure and other services your Looked After children and young people, and care leavers, receive.

Chief executives should therefore focus on what you can do to provide your Looked After children and young people and care leavers with an environment in which they can achieve their aspirations, beyond just what you must do to fulfill your statutory obligations.

You will want to:

  • Know how many children and young people are Looked After by your authority, the reasons for them becoming Looked After and how well they are doing.
  • Know that you are addressing the needs of your Looked After children and young people and care leavers.
  • Know that all of your staff are being aspirational for your Looked After children and young people and care leavers and doing all they can to ensure better outcomes for them.
  • Make certain that arrangements are in place to track and report on the progress your Looked After children and young people and care leavers are making.
  • Make sure that your Council's budgetary processes make the right resource provision for meeting corporate parenting needs and aspirations.
  • Assure yourself that your staff are procuring, providing and expecting the best services for your Looked After children and young people and care leavers.
  • Assure yourself that your recruitment and selection procedures are robust, that you have robust procedures in place for monitoring and managing the performance of staff, and that your staff have access to training and development opportunities to make sure that the best possible people are providing the best possible services to Looked After children and young people and care leavers.
  • Assure yourself that you and your relevant staff adhere to the Scottish Social Services Council Codes of Practice, and that other staff are adhering to their own professional codes of conduct and fulfilling their CPD requirements.
  • Make sure that effective arrangements for governance and scrutiny are in place so that your elected members can be assured that the council is doing all that it can for its Looked After children and young people and care leavers.
  • Make sure that your single outcome agreement takes full account of the needs of your Looked After children and young people and care leavers.
  • Personally champion the needs of your Looked After children and young people and care leavers, promoting excellence and encouraging services to share learning with other councils.
  • Know that your Looked After children and young people, and care leavers, are able to have their say in all that you do, and that what they are listened to and their views are acted on wherever possible.

HOW WILL I KNOW I'VE MADE A DIFFERENCE?

  • When your internal scrutiny and self-evaluation processes demonstrate that outcomes for Looked After children and young people and care leavers are improving, when your external inspection reports highlight good practice in your authority.
  • When there is no difference between the educational, health, employment and other life outcomes of Looked After children and young people, and care leavers, and those of their peers.
  • When your Looked After children and young people attend school regularly, pass exams, find jobs or places at college or university on leaving school, find somewhere suitable to live and manage to sustain it.
  • When your staff have job satisfaction, feel confident and competent in what they do, and your carers feel supported and valued.