Summary of Key Implementation Issues Raised in Question 2: Do You Have Any Other Comments?
Among the overwhelming support for the principles of Continuing Care provisions, some respondents’ highlighted concerns about the consistency of understanding and implementation of the policy amongst the different parts of the sector and from experiences of young people. Again it should be noted that these points do not undermine the support for making this Order to raise the age of higher age of eligibility to twenty-one. The challenges raised in responses have been summarised as follows:
1. Understanding of the policy and practice implementation
- Notable variation in local practice and understanding of the policy at practitioner and managerial level, meaning young people are not receiving consistent information about their entitlements.
- More consistent information around Continuing Care needs to be supplied to both professionals and young people.
- The age eligibility for the duty to provide Continuing Care is not consistently being understood by practitioners, affecting whether some young people may benefit from Continuing Care.
- Some local authorities applying the legislation inflexibly rather than in respect of the principles of Staying Put guidance, and some inconsistency in practice and resourcing to provide adequate alternative ‘Staying Put’ placements.
- Need to consider greater methods of support for young care leavers, including the framework of Aftercare supports, options to return to care placements and for young people leaving the justice system.
- More clarity and consistency needed in relation to supporting Continuing Care placements and good transition into adult services when the time is right for young people.
- Clarifying the role of the Care Inspectorate and more consistency needed in their approach to supporting the registration of ‘adult placement carers’ and integrated inspection of Continuing Care placements as set out in their guidance.
- A shift in culture and attitudes still needing as it is felt that decisions are being driven by age rather than development stage, and also by, availability of resources and cost. Views being that Continuing Care should be the normal expectation for care experienced young people.
- A greater need to ensure that young people’s views are sought at all times within planning and decision making.
- Views that welfare assessments are not fully meeting the requirements set out in legislation, including: assessments not taking place in sufficient time before a young person is due to leave care; young people not being kept informed about this or their views sought; and the local authority not making sure that a written record of the young person’s views is kept and made available to the young person.
- Young people should have access to independent advocacy with children’s rights and other advocacy groups being supported to ensure that all young people are made aware of their rights to Continuing Care and where to get support to challenge decisions that they believe are not in their best interest.
- Need for a dedicated statutory rights of appeal process for Continuing Care.
2. Funding and resourcing concerns including placement instability, commissioning of independent/out of authority placements
- Concerns that Scottish Government funding as set out in the Financial Memorandum was not enough to meet the full costs of implementation for the potential increasing numbers of young people exercising the right to Continuing Care support including for staff, placements and additional support resources.
- Additional pressures on capacity and resources as a result of higher numbers of young people choosing to take up their right to remain in Continuing Care placements – exceeding original modelling costs. This also creating a greater need for local authorities to give consideration when resourcing and commissioning services. This is leading to, for example, greater need to use higher cost purchased placements as local authority placements are occupied by young people remaining in Continuing Care placement and also the emergence of Fostering Agencies introducing Continuing Care Contracts with additional built-in costs.
- Concerns around inconsistency of how foster carers are categorised in relation to Continuing Care (e.g. foster carer or supported carer/adult placement service) and how they are supported both financially and with the appropriate training. Recognised need for greater clarity for local authorities to address the important difference in status and expectations when looked after children become young adults.
3. Evidence and data
- A small number of respondents highlighted that there has not yet been an official statistical return or other data around this relatively recent Continuing Care provision and the importance of having high quality data to inform wider understanding and effective implementation of the legislation.
- More clarification needed around Continuing Care interactions with transitions to adult services for young people with particular additional support needs, and new policies such as the Care-Experience Bursary for students in further and higher education.
- Consider the opportunities for local authority/corporate parents in supporting young people who leave care before reaching age 16.
The Scottish Government would like to thank the organisations and individuals who replied to this consultation. We are pleased that the majority of respondents support the continued roll out of Continuing Care proposed by the Order and thank them for taking the time to offer additional constructive comments on implementation of the policy.
As part of our ongoing work to support policy development we remain dedicated to work collaboratively to address the points raised. We value the ongoing dialogue, emerging evidence and the work that all parts of the sector have undertaken so far towards making Continuing Care a reality for young people. We also recognise that there is still more to do to ensure that all eligible young people can equally and consistently benefit from the best Continuing Care or Aftercare support to meet their individual changing needs.
In reply to issues raised by respondents to this consultation we have offered information to help clarify some of these issues and also our plans for future engagement and support to deliver improvements.
Continuing Care policy aims and objectives
The aim of Continuing Care is to ensure that all eligible young people have the choice of staying in an existing care placement; maintaining supportive relationships with their carers. This reduces the risk of multiple simultaneous disruptions occurring in their lives, until they are able to demonstrate their readiness and willingness to move on to interdependent living.
Where a young person does not want to remain in an existing care placement, or where any of the exemptions to providing Continuing Care apply, local authorities should ensure that the young person is provided with advice and assistance with a view to preparing them for when they cease to be looked after. This should be based on plans which reflect their individual needs and aspirations, backed up by consistent, personalised support from their local authority and other corporate parents.
As has been highlighted by East Ayrshire Council in their response, a smooth transition from “Looked After” to “Continuing Care” status is critical, and requires strong and well developed partnership arrangements in supporting this. A strong commitment from providers and foster carers to ensure the best possible outcomes for care experienced young people and those in Continuing Care also needs to remain.
Supporting the implementation of Continuing Care
We appreciate the support of the sector and all practitioners in implementing this policy. We recognise the collaborative work, underpinned by Getting it Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) principles, taking place locally and at national level to assist local authorities in transitions and outcomes planning for young people; particularly as they move towards adulthood. Much has also been done to support managers and practitioners in identifying challenges and solutions.
The Scottish Government understands the importance of ensuring that looked after young people and practitioners across Scotland are able to access information in suitable formats to help them fully understand the legislation and enable the best possible delivery of Continuing Care.
In November 2016, the Scottish Government published guidance, which was developed in collaboration with managers, practitioners, carers and young people to help corporate parents, and anyone who supports looked after children and care leavers, understand the Continuing Care duties. We hope this provides a good basis on which to build additional resources. This guidance is available here: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/11/4644.
The Scottish Government has taken a number of steps to ensure that everyone whose work relates to the support of looked after young people and care leavers, is informed of legislation on Continuing Care. We are proactive in promoting published guidance including material developed by the sector.
‘Your Rights to Care’ by Who Cares? Scotland and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland, is one example of young person friendly guidance that is available here: https://www.cypcs.org.uk/rights/your-rights-to-care
We also welcome the Care Inspectorate’s 2017 ‘Guidance for care services for looked after and accommodated children and young people who need ongoing support as young adults’. This explains steps taken to ensure foster agencies incur no additional fees and integrated inspections for providing Continuing Care and is available here: http://www.careinspectorate.com/index.php/care-news-online/30-publications/professionals-registration/professionals-guidance/4092-guidance-for-care-services-for-looked-after-and-accommodated-children-and-young-people-who-need-ongoing-support-as-young-adults
Guidance on providing advice to care leavers about their benefit entitlements was developed by the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland in collaboration with Staf (Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum). This advice can be found on the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland’s website: http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/care-leavers-and-benefits-giving-good-advice. UK Benefit Regulations have also been amended by the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 (Consequential Modifications) Order 2016 which takes account of the particular status of young people in Continuing Care placements and their entitlements to benefits: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2016/732/contents/made.
Through membership groups which consist of frontline practitioners and managers from Scottish local authorities and third sector and private sector providers, Staf (the Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum) have worked collectively to identify obstacles to implementation and shared good practice. A briefing on this work is available here: https://www.staf.scot/implications-of-continuing-care-report
We also understand that Clan Childlaw now has a dedicated Scotland-wide service to provide care leavers and young people preparing to leave care with representation about how to realise, protect and enforce their rights including to Continuing Care. The service will train and inform practitioners working with care leavers so they have increased capacity to enable young people to realise their rights.
Monitoring of Continuing Care data
We understand the importance of gathering high quality data in monitoring the effectiveness of Continuing Care policy. The Scottish Government’s annual National Statistics publication ‘Children’s Social Work Statistics Scotland’ will, depending on data quality, publish data on the number of young people who move into Continuing Care from 2019. We also continue to work regularly with local authorities and with our stakeholders in the care sector to improve the collection of information around uptake and eligibility for Continuing Care. We will monitor this information and any other evidence offered to clarify numbers in the years following implementation.
The funding commitment for Continuing Care has been set out by the Scottish Government in the Financial Memorandum that accompanied the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill; this funding commitment remains unchanged. This included the net total costs each year from 2016-17 to 19-20. These were lower in the first year of implementation at £4.2 million, rising to 9.3 million by 2019-20 at which point they are expected to stabilise along with the additional numbers estimated at 164 young persons in Continuing Care between the ages of sixteen to twenty-one.
For more details, please see the Financial Memorandum to the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill, as amended at Stage 2, 31 January 2014, Table 13: net annual costs of staying in care for all cohorts (£) http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_Bills/Children%20and%20Young%20People%20(Scotland)%20Bill/b27as4-stage2-fm.pdf.
For all young people who choose Continuing Care, there is an expected saving arising in the form of the foregone Aftercare service costs. Funding allocations to local authorities for the changes to throughcare and aftercare requirements in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 including entitlement up to age 26 and separate allocations to cover the change to ‘the age at leaving care’ eligibility criteria for Aftercare support from ‘beyond school minimum leaving age’ to ‘age 16’ were also set out in the Financial Memorandum, available on the Scottish parliament website here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/62233.aspx
The Scottish Government’s policy towards local authorities’ spending is to allow local authorities the financial freedom to operate independently. As such, the vast majority of the revenue funding is provided by means of a block grant. It is the responsibility of individual local authorities to manage their own budgets and to allocate the total financial resources available to them on the basis of local needs and priorities, including the amounts allocated for infrastructure and local services. There are no current plans to review funding arrangements for Continuing Care.
Interactions with other new policies
Since the commencement of the Continuing Care duties, there has been a number of new policies introduced that provide support to care leavers, including for example, the exemption to council tax, Care-Experienced Bursary, and the new Social Security funds such as the Best Start Grant. As with any new policy we fully understand the need to ensure that the interactions between new and existing provisions across the policies are clearly communicated and consistently understood in practice and we are working with the sector to provide this.
Next steps to support policy implementation
The Scottish Government values the ongoing feedback and information shared with us during this consultation exercise. We have also welcomed a number of opportunities for stakeholder engagement over the last year. All evidence highlighting both challenges and successes will be considered and used to support on-going improvements to achieve consistent implementation of the Continuing Care policy.
We are committed to undertaking further work to understand the issues that have arisen in the implementation of the Continuing Care policy, and ensure its successful delivery in line with the original policy intention. We are happy to accept offers from COSLA, Social Work Scotland and other partners such as CELCIS, Staf, and Clan Childlaw to work together to address the challenges and to ensure full and consistent implementation so that young people who want and need it can benefit from their Continuing Care entitlement.
Furthermore, we will take account of any emerging recommendations from the Independent Care Review.
Looked After Children Unit