6.1 Amendments to section 29 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 require the authority to carry out a needs assessment for each young person who ceases to be looked after beyond school age, with a view to determining what advice, assistance and support the authority should provide. In addition, the regulations require the local authority to carry out a pathway assessment for aftercare services on young people who are over school leaving age but are still looked after.
Principles of assessment
6.2 The aim of the assessment process is not to push young people into the adult world before they are ready, but to ensure that they are equipped with the necessary skills when the time is right for them to move to adult living. Some young people may have had a limited opportunity to learn life skills. They should - like other young people - start to learn these skills when entering their teens and should be well advanced in them by the time they move to live independently. Those young people who spend a considerable amount of time in residential schools may miss out on particular learning opportunities and consideration should be given in these settings to the preparation they require. Schools should give young people a range of relevant experiences and this should be addressed at care reviews
6.3 Before embarking on throughcare and aftercare work with a young person, existing Looking After Children materials should be checked to see if they have been completed for the young person. This may avoid any duplication of effort on both the young person's and local authority's part.
6.4 In many cases the young person themselves will be best placed to know what approach to this process is most suitable and when it should start. Authorities should be flexible and sensitive in their response. For some young people still looked after, the Looking After Children 15 plus action and assessment record might be more appropriate than the pathways materials produced for assessing throughcare and aftercare needs, and might reduce any perceived pressure to move on. For others, the pathways materials will be more appropriate.
6.5 Continuity of placement is an important element in the success that a young person enjoys. In particular, foster placements where a young person is settled should not be disrupted unnecessarily and it may be more appropriate to use the Looking After Children 15 plus action and assessment record in these circumstances. Foster carers may continue to give advice, support and friendship after the end of the foster placement. They may also continue to provide accommodation or services on a paid basis.
6.6 Local authorities must develop a robust and transparent framework which both addresses the needs of the young person while they remain looked after and plans to meet their need for support once they leave care. The local authority should consider and agree with young people how their support is to be delivered. The young person's views will play a vital role in assessing and planning for their future (see Chapter 3). The needs assessment (known as the pathway assessment) along with the views of the young person (pathway views) will then be the basis for preparing the pathway plan.
6.7 Materials have been circulated to local authorities which cover all the areas set out in the regulation that need to be addressed. This is entitled Pathways and includes:
Pathway views - the views of the young person
Pathway assessment - the assessment of the young persons needs
Pathway plan - how the local authority plans to meet the needs
These should be seen as part of a single process in which the views of the young person are sought, their needs assessed and action identified to meet those needs. Although these elements are identified separately in the legislation and regulations they should not appear as distinct bureaucratic steps to the young person, but part of a continuous process of consultation, assessment and support.
Assessment policy statement
6.8 Each local authority must prepare a written policy statement setting out in general terms how the needs of compulsorily supported persons and discretionarily supported persons are to be assessed. This should give details of the authority's approach to carrying out pathway assessment, for example what materials the authority uses, whether the assessment will be done by a dedicated throughcare and aftercare team, and what meetings the young person will be expected to attend. The statement should include useful contacts within the authority, such as information on how to access throughcare and aftercare services and other agencies, such as the local Careers Scotland office.
6.9 For each individual case, the authority must specify -
- who will be responsible for co-ordinating and taking forward the assessment (the pathway co-ordinator);
- the timetable for the pathway assessment; and
- who is to be consulted for the assessment.
The authority must make sure that the young person and those people whom it consults as part of the assessment process have a copy of the initial agreement.
Timing of assessment
6.10 The responsible authority must complete the pathway assessment within three months of a young person becoming a compulsorily supported person or, in the case of a discretionarily supported person, their applying for assistance under section 29(2). However, only in exceptional circumstances should a young person have their pathway assessment and pathway plan completed after they cease to be looked after. It is expected that all young people will have had their pathway assessment, will have completed their pathway views and will have a pathway plan in place as to their future before they cease to be looked after.
6.11 If a local authority knows that a young person whom it is looking after is about to become a compulsorily supported person at school leaving age (that is, it is planned that the young person will cease to be looked after around their sixteenth birthday), they can undertake any preparatory work ahead of that date but the pathway views and assessment cannot be finalised until the young person is over school leaving age, as the regulations only apply to young people still being looked after over school leaving age. In other cases where the young person is still being looked after and accommodated the authority will want to balance the need for planning to meet the young person's needs when they do cease to be looked after with the risk of disrupting their care placement by raising expectations that they will be leaving care soon. Generally, a pathway assessment can be done and a pathway plan prepared for a currently looked after person without them needing to leave care, so authorities need not delay the process because of a perceived risk to the current placement.
6.12 When it puts together the timetable for a young person's assessment the authority should bear in mind any considerations such as forthcoming exams, and take all reasonable steps to avoid disrupting the young person's preparation for them.
6.13 As indicated at paragraph 3.5 the local authority should ensure that the issues around consent have been fully explored and discussed with the young person.
6.14 The pathway views of a young person must include the following :
The young person's hopes for the future.
The young person's emotional state, day to day activities, personal safety, influences on the young person and the young person's personal identity. ( Lifestyle)
The young person's family relationships, own children, other caring responsibilities, life story, and friends and other significant people in their life. ( Family and Friends)
The young person's general health (including any mental health needs), contact with health services, medical conditions and disabilities, activities that might affect the young person's health, and emotional and mental well being. ( Health and Well Being)
The young person's future plans for study, training or work, schooling (including support needs), skills and experience, qualifications and certificates, and training and work. ( Learning and Work)
The young person's accommodation arrangements, practical living skills, accommodation options for the future, and support required for living. ( Where I Live)
The young person's sources of income, outgoings, savings and debts, requirement for financial support, and budgeting skills. ( Money)
The young person's knowledge of their rights and legal entitlements, involvement in legal proceedings, including criminal proceedings as a victim, witness or alleged perpetrator. ( Rights and Legal Issues)
Regulation 3(2) and Schedule 1
6.15 In carrying out the pathway assessment the local authority must not proceed until the pathway views of the young person are complete (unless this is not reasonably practicable). It must take the views into account and note them in its record of the pathway assessment.
6.16 In carrying out the pathway assessment the local authority shall take into account all the same matters as the pathway views (with the exception of the young person's hopes and aspirations). The pathway assessment should cover: Lifestyle; Family and Friends; Health and Well Being; Learning and Work; Where I Live; Money; and Rights and Legal Issues. The assessment process might indicate that the young person should have a more detailed or specialised assessment in a particular area - for example, health or employment - or the young person may already have had such an assessment. In such cases the pathway assessment should signpost the more detailed assessment required, and the resulting assessment can be included in the pathways folder and should be considered in the pathway plan.
Regulation 8(4) and Schedule 2
6.17 The responsible authority must keep a written record of the information obtained during an assessment, of the deliberations of any meeting held in connection with any aspect of an assessment; and the outcome of the assessment.
6.18 The authority may consult a number of other people in carrying out the assessment as well as the young person themselves. These could include parents, or anyone with parental responsibility, any person who cares for them on a day to day basis, a representative of the school or college (such as a class teacher or someone chosen by the young person), the pathway co-ordinator, the GP or other appropriate health professional (such as a Looked After Children nurse), the young person's supporter, and anyone else who the responsible authority or the young person considers relevant. For example, the young person might already have access to an adviser from Careers Scotland. If the young person has any particular needs relating to communication or cognitive impairment it will be important that at least one person involved in the pathway assessment has a clear understanding of how they express their wishes and feelings. The views of these people can be essential in giving a full picture of the young person's needs in the areas detailed in the regulations.
6.19 The young person themselves should play the central role in the assessment process and their wishes as expressed in their pathway views should be used to complete the assessment. When deciding who needs to be involved in the assessment, the responsible authority should take into account the wishes of the young person.
6.20 The pathway plan records the actions to be taken as a result of the pathway views and the pathway assessment in an action plan for the young person's future.
6.21 A pathway plan must be completed for each compulsorily supported young person within 21 days of completion of the pathway assessment. For a prospective supported young person, applying for assistance under section 29(2), the local authority should decide whether to provide support to the prospective supported person within 14 days of completing the pathway assessment. The authority should notify the prospective supported young person of their decision within 7 days of reaching it. If the local authority decides to grant the application for assistance, it shall then prepare the pathway plan within 21 days.
6.22 The plan must cover the areas outlined in the pathway assessment and pathway views. The authority must also seek the views of the young person on the pathway plan itself. The pathways material are designed to bring together the pathway views, pathway assessment and pathway plan for each of the subjects, that is: Lifestyle; Family and Friends; Health and Well Being; Learning and Work; Where I Live; Money; and Rights and Legal Issues.
6.23 For each of these, the plan must set out how the responsible authority plans to meet the needs identified through the assessment, and the timetable for actions required to do so. The plan should identify when other agencies will contribute to the targets set, whether within the authority like the housing department, or outwith it, like a training college or Careers Scotland.
Regulations 10(1), 10(2), 10(3) and Schedule 2
6.24 The local authority may consult others in drawing up the pathway plan as for the pathway assessment. In addition, it is important to involve those that may be identified as providing services or contributing to actions under the plan. Any barriers to communication or joint working should be identified and dealt with.
6.25 It is important to recognise that a young person may not always be successful the first time that they attempt adult living and may need help more than once. Some young people will need more support than others and the pathway plan should reflect this. There should therefore be an element of contingency planning built into the pathways process, and fully explained and discussed with the young person.
6.26 The pathway plan must be recorded in writing. The responsible authority must keep a copy and must provide one for the young person in a form which is accessible to them. The authority should consider whether anyone else should have a copy of all or part of the plan. Normally any other agencies that are identified as helping to meet the targets should be informed of their proposed role. The authority should seek and obtain the consent of the young person to the plan being copied in this way.
Review of the pathway plan
6.27 It is important to recognise young people's expectations and circumstances can change quickly. Assessments and planning are not static documents but a continuously evolving cycle of updating and revision. The plan will therefore have to be a living document which recognises this and can be amended accordingly. The responsible authority must arrange a review if the young person asks for one; if the pathways co-ordinator asks for one; if the young person's supporter asks for one; or at least every six months. This will ensure that plans remain current and relevant for the young person. It will also provide an opportunity to make sure that any partners in delivery have met, or are meeting their agreements. Consideration should also be given to reviewing the plan six weeks after a young person who has been accommodated moves on, as this can be a critical and stressful time and local authorities will want to be in a position to offer early support.
6.28 The purpose of regular review is to check that the goals and milestones are still right for the young person and are still being met, or to set new targets if the young person has achieved those previously identified. It will make sure that levels of support are adequate and are being delivered according to plan. It will take account of any unexpected developments and revise the plan accordingly. It is an opportunity to record the outcomes of any actions taken at an earlier date and consider what works and achieves best results for the young person. The views of the young person will again be central to this process and must be sought in reviewing the plan.
6.29 It is also important that the young person is involved in the Review. If a young person needs to travel for this purpose, reasonable travel and subsistence costs should again be covered. If the young person cannot or will not discuss the plan face to face, the responsible authority should try to find an acceptable alternative to review the plan with them, for example by e-mail or telephone. If none of this is possible, the plan can be reviewed without the young person's help, but this should be the exception.
6.30 It will be important to seek and take account of the views of the same people as were involved in the assessment. It may also be appropriate for other people also to attend if, for example, they are contributing to one of the elements of the pathway plan or if they played an important role at the pathway assessment.
6.31 The results of the review must be recorded in writing. The responsible authority and the young person should each have a copy. Other copies should be available as set out for the plan itself.
Aims and outcomes
6.32 The process of gathering the young person's views, assessing their needs, planning to meet them, and reviewing progress and updating the plan accordingly is central to the new system of supporting young people leaving care. The aims are to identify properly and meet the needs of the young person, and to encourage the local authority and the young person to keep in touch. The young person should therefore feel they are getting something from the system of assessment and planning that will ensure they keep coming to the responsible authority for the support they need.