07 / SOCIAL WORK SERVICES
"We have tried to get some understanding of the accommodation needs of Looked After children, and also their need for throughcare and aftercare.
"When a Looked After child reaches 16, he or she has an entitlement to ongoing support services. Essentially these aim to help them make the transition from a child in care to an independent young adult. There's a transition phase called throughcare and aftercare which is designed to develop life skills to enable you to become independent. And when they finally leave care we offer an ongoing support role. That's part of the support service for Looked After children.
"We have a very active group of Looked After children who come together with a representative voice [Having Your Say]. They've become a very effective group for giving us their views on what it's like to be in care - for example the impact on their education.
"[West Lothian Council] bought PCs for all the kids in our residential units and in foster care. We also developed with our partners WL Netguard which is effectively an internet control. Clever software decides whether they are going to a safe site or not.
"West Lothian has also been developing the C-Me system which will enable information about children to be shared between the right people at the right time. It allows practitioners in health, education and social policy to share information about children in a safe and secure way. All the information was held somewhere within the agencies, but no-one had the whole picture. Now we can bring information from social work, health and education and put it together to give an integrated view of the child and his or her circumstances."
Grahame Blair, Head of Social Policy, West Lothian Council.
All Looked After children and young people should be provided with the same types of opportunities as other children and young people, so that they may grow into valued, effective lifelong learners and successful and responsible adults.
"My experience of care has meant that I have had support and stability. I feel that the love that my foster family have given me is the most important thing. I would not class them as my foster family, they have become my family. This has given me confidence and made me positive person." (Guy)
Social workers, residential and other care staff, staff providing support to fostering and kinship carers, throughcare and aftercare workers, managers and other support staff form vital relationships with children and their parents. It is through these relationships that social work services staff contribute to the challenging and complex task of the day to day corporate parenting of Looked After children and young people and care leavers.
Foster carers and residential carers provide corporate parenting on a daily basis, while the social worker is the glue which holds the child's plan together. It is likely that the child or young person's social worker will be their lead professional under Getting It Right For Every Child, and he or she will be central in making sure that everyone involved with the young person is focused on the young person's needs and contributing effectively to planning and delivering services.
Moving into independence too soon can have serious and damaging consequences for young people and can contribute to an unsettled future lifestyle with significant financial and social costs for those involved and for society as a whole. Preparation for the time a child or young person ceases to be Looked After, at whatever age or stage, is therefore crucial, and is the duty of all corporate parents; the positive impact of careful planning and preparation cannot be overestimated.
You will want to:
- Have the same aspirations, hopes and expectations which all good parents have for their own children.
- Be the professional who holds together the life story of the child or young person and makes sure that life events which are important do not get lost but are recognised and stored.
- Be confident that the child or young person is safe, healthy, active, nurtured, achieving, respected and responsible, and included.
- Make sure that wherever the child or young person lives they feel they belong, are secure and that they can grow in confidence as their developing needs continue to be met.
- Make sure that a child or young person is only moved if it is in her/his best interests and the transition is carefully planned, managed and explained to the child or young person.
- Make sure the child or young person is truly involved in decisions which affect them and that they get the support and opportunity to state their views which are listened to and taken seriously.
- Expect the best from all services so they can help the child or young person to reach their full potential and that there is someone who advocates for them in the same as good parents do.
- Make sure that all the child or young person's achievements are recognised and the ones most important to the young person are remembered and recorded.
- Make sure that the child or young person's care plan takes full account of their educational needs and identifies how adults with different roles can help their achievement in school.
- Encourage and support the young person to consider post-16 education, training or employment.
- Make sure the child or young person has the opportunity to have new experiences, for example, staying overnight with a friend or going on a school journey and to try out new skills such as sport, music, drama, arts and culture.
- Make sure that the child or young person is part of their local community and can use local universal services without discrimination. Where there are institutional barriers you will be confident in approaching the relevant agencies to tackle these.
- Understand the strengths and difficulties of the child or young person's family relationships and recognise family members who are important to them and support professionals in recognising and helping these relationships to be positive.
- Encourage the child or young person to make and keep friends.
- Encourage young people to continue to be Looked After until they are 18, if that is in their best interests. They should be ready to live independently and should not move into independence as a reaction to placement breakdown.
- Recognise that taking risks is part of growing up and to support carers of the child or young person to let them take reasonable risks at age appropriate stages.
- Help the child or young person negotiate each life transition and that a child or young person Looked After away from home does not miss out on what might be taken for granted by good parents, for example remembering the age they started to walk; joined local youth groups, took part in religious festivals or family events when relatives gather and family history is updated and exchanged.
HOW WILL I KNOW I'VE MADE A DIFFERENCE?
- When every child or young person in your authority has a care plan or pathways plan that meets their needs and helps them to fulfil their potential.
- When young people are able to be Looked After until they are ready for independence and are well supported into independent living.
- When Looked After children and young people and care leavers no longer feel stigmatised and excluded from services and communities.
- When your staff and carers feel they are competent and confident, valued and aspirational.
- When self-evaluation and inspection reports demonstrate that your service has delivered excellence to Looked After children and young people and care leavers, and when you can confidently report to elected members or the public on the outcomes of your Looked After children and young people and care leavers.
- 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.