04 / ELECTED MEMBERS
"As far as corporate parenting is concerned, I am keen to encourage all councillors that they have a responsibility for the wellbeing of children in the council's care. We as an organisation have a real responsibility for seeing that we are good parents.
"I would like [Orkney's Looked After children] to have the same opportunities as children who have more normal families, the same career and educational chances and health and housing opportunities as their peers.
"[Corporate parenting means] seeing that my colleagues and I have a concern for the welfare of the children for whom we are legally responsible. It means ensuring that we have enough resources to look after these children and we hold our officials to account for the standard of care they give to the children.
"I would stress that our Looked After children should not be disadvantaged at school or in further education. When they need housing they should have the same opportunities as any other young adults and we should continue to help them."
Cllr Roderick McLeod,Chair of Orkney Islands Council's Social Services and Housing Committee.
As corporate parents, local authorities have a challenging role, and acting like good parents and being aware of the needs of their children and young people must be a key priority.
"Throughcare stepped in and found me supported lodgings where I was able to carry out on my studies. They supported me financially and also supported anything I did. After completing my studies and starting a job they helped me find and set up my own flat, furnishing it and also helped with all the paperwork that this involved. I'm still able to pick up a phone for advice, even though I'm not under their care anymore. For young people who have been in the care system for long periods and may not have any other support, this is important.I know not all local authorities provide this kind of support perhaps other authorities could learn from Throughcare." (Anonymous)
When a child or young person is taken into local authority care, the council is making a commitment that they will do better with the council as a corporate parent than with his or her birth parent(s).
As elected members you are responsible for making sure that the council meets all of its statutory responsibilities. The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 places specific duties on councils in relation to Looked After children and young people, and care leavers (see appendix 2). You are accountable to the electorate for the services you provide and for ensuring that the council develops and implements both policies and strategies for improvement.
Your council will deliver services directly to children and young people and care leavers; through residential care, foster care, social work, children's rights and advocacy, education, leisure, housing. Your council will also deliver services to families whose children are, or may become, Looked After such as social work, housing or community learning. Your council will also commission services from the independent sector (voluntary or private sector). Your corporate parent responsibilities remain, wherever the child is placed.
You also play an important role as community leaders. You will often be the public face of the council, championing innovation, and particular policies; speaking up for those who find it hard to do so themselves and, at times, defending decisions. An ever-present concern for all the activities you are involved in and all the decisions you make should be, how will this impact on our Looked After children and young people, or care leavers?
Even if you are not directly involved with children's services, you still have some very important responsibilities as a corporate parent. For example:
- Schools - are children and young people in your care receiving the best possible support to help them reach their potential?
- Housing - are care leavers housed appropriately and supported to sustain independent living arrangements?
- Culture and Leisure services - how are your Looked After children and young people and care leavers able to access a wide range of good quality arts, culture and leisure provision, and given the opportunity to influence the development of such provision in ways which try to meet their aspirations?
- Planning - how are decisions made about where children's homes are built?
- Finance - are resources for Looked After children and young people and care leavers adequate and being used to achieve the best outcomes?
- Human resources - does your council have a scheme to support care leavers into employment?
- Scrutiny - are you asking your officers challenging questions which enable you to demonstrate that your council is delivering the best possible services, and making the best use of resources?
THE KEY QUESTION FOR YOU IS "IS THIS GOOD ENOUGH FOR MY CHILD?"
You will want to:
- Know how many children and young people are Looked After by your council, why they are Looked After, that they safe at all times and how well they are doing.
- Make sure that your schools are inclusive, aspirational for all children and young people including those who are Looked After, and have in place strategies to ensure that Looked After children and young people are not disproportionately represented in poor attendance, exclusions, bullying and underachievement.
- Actively promote and support high standards of care for children and young people, and care leavers, taking account of their cultural needs.
- Actively seek high quality outcomes for your Looked After children and young people and care leavers and take responsibility for those outcomes.
- Remove barriers, where possible, which prevent your Looked After children and young people and care leavers achieving the desired outcomes.
- Challenge professionals to work in new ways which always promote inclusion.
- Make sure that the physical, mental and emotional well-being of your Looked After children and young people and care leavers are being addressed at the earliest opportunity.
- Make sure that your Looked After children and young people are given the same opportunities that any good parents would provide for their child and that you have the same expectations and aspirations as you would for your own children.
- Champion the needs of, and be aspirational for, your Looked After children and young people and care leavers.
- Know who your care leavers are and make sure that there is support available to them.
- Be certain that the services your council provides or commissions for your Looked After children and young people and care leavers are meeting their needs to the highest possible standard, including when the child is placed outwith your own services or geographical area.
- Make sure that you have effective scrutiny mechanisms in place to hold officers to account for local outcomes.
- Consider making a reference to improving outcomes for Looked After children and young people and care leavers in your Single Outcome Agreement, or at least make sure that their needs are recognised in your broader local outcomes and indicators and performance management system.
- Work with local health board members and other key partners to make sure that services are scrutinised across the community planning partnerships and this includes monitoring, integrated working, setting shared goals and values and continuous improvement.
- Make sure that all services in your authority are able to protect, support and encourage Looked After children and young people and care leavers, individually and collectively.
- Promote a positive view of Looked After children and young people and care leavers, and help to raise public awareness about the care system.
- Recognise and show pride in children or young person's achievements, build their confidence and defend them against unfair criticism.
- Make sure that the views of children and young people and care leavers are heard and listened to, and when decisions are being made that their views are being taken into account.
HOW WILL I KNOW I'VE MADE A DIFFERENCE?
- When your Looked After children or young people or care leavers attend school regularly, passes exams, find and sustain jobs or a places at college or university on leaving school, find somewhere suitable to live and manage to sustain it.
- When families have been supported to enable them to look after their own children, where appropriate, and are able to enhance their parenting role.
- When your staff have job satisfaction, feel confident and competent in what they do, and your carers feel supported and valued.
- 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 discernible 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.