01 / Working Together
Second best is not good enough for Scotland's looked after children and young people. 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. In discharging their corporate parent responsibilities, they need to put and keep the needs of the child or young person at the centre of everything they do. 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 and alert to their children's needs and work together to deliver for them.
Where we are now:
As at 31st March 2006, there were 12,966 looked after children and young people in Scotland. Of this group:
- 56% were looked after at home by their parents or with other family members or friends and 44% were looked after and accommodated in foster care, residential or secure settings;
- Almost 53% of Scotland's looked after children and young people are aged under 12 years;
- Just over 64% of children and young people looked after in foster care are aged under 12 years;
- Almost 91% of children and young people looked after and accommodated in a non-secure local authority residential home or unit are aged 12 years or over; and,
- Over 90% of children and young people looked after and
accommodated in residential schools are of secondary school age
(Looked After Children Statistics 2005 - 06)
In recognition of the need to have more accurate information about looked after children and young people, we are working in partnership with local authorities to deliver a more robust and comprehensive data collection and reporting framework which will encompass wider education outcomes for Scotland's looked after children and young people.
Since the introduction, in April 2004, of the Supporting Young People Leaving Care in Scotland Regulations, local authorities have a corporate parent duty to prepare young people for the time when they will leave care and live independently.
In light of this the Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum, a voluntary organisation established in 1998 to provide support to young people leaving care, have produced How Good is Your Throughcare and Aftercare Service?, a good practice guide and self-assessment tool. This guide was launched on 6th October 2006 and is aimed at service providers and relevant policy makers and builds on the statutory duties set out in the Regulations.
Extraordinary Lives reinforces the significant role of the corporate parent in relation to the lives of Scotland's looked after children and young people; "the single most important thing that will improve the futures of Scotland's looked after children and young people is for local authorities to focus on and improve their corporate parenting skills" but recognises that the role of the corporate parent is "ill defined and often misunderstood".
In relation to the educational element of the corporate parent role, some progress has been made as a result of the 2001 Learning with Care - the Education of Children Looked After Away From Home By Local Authorities report (Learning With Care). For example:
- All local authorities have either developed or revised joint policies and protocols aimed at improving the educational outcomes of their looked after children and young people;
- All local authority educational establishments now have a Senior Manager who has a designated responsibility for looked after children and young people; and,
- Most local authorities have developed systems to gather relevant information in relation to the care and broad educational outcomes of their looked after children and young people.
A series of practical materials was also produced to support the findings of Learning With Care. The materials developed and subsequently published included:
- self evaluation indicators;
- a comprehensive training pack for foster carers, residential wokers, teachers and social workers;
- a video outlining the views of looked after children and young people; and,
- an information booklet for foster carers, residential workers, teachers and social workers.
The 2001 Learning With Care training materials provide an ideal multi-disciplinary training opportunity for teachers, social workers, foster carers, residential workers and other relevant professionals working with looked after children and young people. They have been used extensively, although not consistently, across Scotland.
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education ( HMIE) is currently developing plans for specific inspection work into looked after children and young people, the aim of which is to ensure that provision for, performance of, and future planning for young people leaving care is rigorously evaluated and reported. The starting point for this work is the nine Learning with Care recommendations.
In addition to the various initiatives aimed specifically at
looked after children and young people, Executive priorities such
as the Integrated Children's Services Planning Framework, local Not
in Employment, Education or Training (
implementation, the new Quality Improvement Framework and joint
inspections of children's services are helping local agencies to
plan and deliver more integrated and child centred services. They
also sit very comfortably with the concept of the corporate parent.
Getting It Right For Every Child will underpin
these priorities by providing for a single assessment of a child's
needs, a single plan and an electronic record - with a lead
professional appointed to oversee delivery of the plan. We have
proposed legislation as part of
Getting It Right For Every Child which will place
duties on agencies to be alert to the needs of children and to act
to improve a child's situation; a duty on agencies to co-operate in
order to meet the needs of children and to establish local
co-ordination and monitoring mechanisms.
What the group said:
The group felt that local authorities, as good corporate parents, need to ask themselves a number of key questions:
- Do elected members and senior officers know:
- How many looked after children and young people their local authority has corporate parent responsibility for?
- The reasons why their children are looked after?
- The profile of their looked after children and young people, e.g. gender, race, religion and disability?
- Where their children and young people are looked after?
- How many placement and education moves children and young people experience whilst being looked after?
- Whether the information above is appropriately shared between relevant council services?
- That a clear set of outcomes have been agreed for looked after children?
- If outcomes for their looked after children and young people are improving year on year?
- Do all educational establishments know which pupils are looked after, whether they are accommodated or looked after at home, and by which local authority?
- Is there clear guidance for social workers, foster carers, residential workers and teachers on what comprises full-time education? Do all local authorities know which of their looked after children and young people are not receiving a full-time education? Can they define the range and quality of education received by children and young people who are not in full-time education?
- Do social workers, foster carers and residential workers know who they can speak to in schools in relation to looked after children and young people? Do schools know who to contact? Do they know when contact is necessary and/or appropriate?
- Is there clear guidance for social workers, foster carers, residential workers and teachers on their role and on issues of confidentiality/ sharing of information about looked after children and young people?
The group agreed that all local authorities - from elected members and senior officers to individual workers, foster carers and residential workers across the authority - need to be more aware of their respective corporate parent responsibilities. They felt that an effective and aspirational corporate parent is central to improving the outcomes, including educational outcomes, of our looked after children and young people. They affirmed that they wished to see a corporate parent who is aware of the needs of their looked after children and young people, who takes their responsibilities seriously and who put the needs of their looked after children and young people at the centre of relevant planning, policy development and service delivery.
During the discussions of the working group, reference was made to the innovative approach being taken by the London Borough of Barnet in relation to their role as corporate parent. Barnet targeted issues such as the role of senior managers, budgetary control, recruitment and retention, training and valuing staff as part of this approach. However, it was the role of Senior Managers that attracted discussion in the group. As part of this approach, young people in the care of the London Borough who were due to sit their GCSE examinations were allocated a senior council manager, e.g. the Chief Executive, the Director of Education and Children and the Head of Children's Services, to supervise their progress under a programme called Education Champions.
The young people and their Education Champions do not meet; but the senior officers work behind the scenes to address any barriers to progress as the young people approach their examinations. The group were interested in the results Barnet's approach achieved. In both 2005 and 2006, the GCSE results for Barnet's looked after young people were above the national average for this group of young people. In 2005 69% achieved at least one GCSE A-G, 51% received five GCSE A-G and 20% achieved five A*-Cs. In 2006 77% achieved at least one GCSE A-G, 54% received five GCSE A-G and 23% achieved five GCSE A*-Cs.
The group also felt that communication between education and social work departments was particularly important. They agreed that joint protocols and clear procedures need to exist and be used effectively to identify when a child becomes looked after or moves school - this was seen as vital in order to provide an appropriate and personalised level of support to each looked after child. Similarly the group felt that the pastoral care role within the school is a vital one, the importance and potential impact of which cannot be underestimated.
The group was critical of the fact that teachers and social workers, in the main, receive separate training. They felt that this mitigates against a shared understanding of the issues faced by these vulnerable children and young people, of the role of professionals and their responsibility as corporate parent. There was also concern that where initial teacher training includes only minimal coverage of looked after children and young people then teachers may feel ill-equipped to deal with this vulnerable group of young people. Similarly in relation to training for social workers, foster carers and residential workers, the awareness of issues surrounding the educational needs and outcomes for looked after children and young people is generally limited. The group felt that this was simply not good enough: more needs to be done.
The group also agreed that we need to be aspirational and ambitious for all of Scotland's looked after children and young people. In doing so, we must strike a balance between taking forward specific actions to improve outcomes for looked after children and young people, while avoiding labelling these children and young people and potentially isolating them from other services, which may also be able to help.
What Scotland's looked after children and young people have said:
Having Your Say "The Burning Issues in Education" (Having Your Say) highlighted three issues central to the theme of working together: raising awareness, training and sharing information. In relation to raising awareness, the children and young people thought that it was important to explain to the public and professionals, the different types of looked after status and what each meant. Under training, some children and young people suggested that it was important for young people to be involved in the training of staff. They identified behaviour management and circle time as crucial training topics. With regards to information sharing, the children and young people's views varied, with some supporting complete openness and others resisting what they saw as intrusion. However, there was general agreement that links between foster carers, residential workers and dedicated members of school staff and social workers should be clear.
The Debate Project 2005: Report (The Debate Project) agreed that there was a need for better partnerships between agencies and local authorities and that local authorities should "reinforce [young people's views] through training." These young people also believed that all support workers "should communicate and try not to duplicate work." They emphasised their desire to be able to meet with local authorities and decision makers locally to ensure the issues that they valued were kept on the agenda. They felt that all decisions made about young people should be "explained more to young people" and that more young people should be involved in interviewing social work and care staff.
- Working together is essential to improving outcomes for looked after children and young people.
- The role of the corporate parent requires to be more clearly defined to ensure that the corporate parent works in the best interest of their looked after children and young people.
- Training and raising awareness of the educational needs of looked after children and young people amongst school, social work, foster carers, residential workers and the general public is essential.
- The collection, reporting and sharing of accurate information in relation to looked after children and young people underpins policy and practice development.
The way ahead - our pledge to Scotland's looked after children and young people:
We all have a responsibility for Scotland's looked after children and young people.
We will fund the appointment of a Senior Executive who will work closely with Chief Executives and Senior Officials within each local authority. He/ she will discuss what is being done to improve educational outcomes for looked after children and young people and care leavers with the relevant corporate parents and will provide reports twice a year to Cabinet.
Next steps required
a) We will identify and appoint a Senior Executive.
We cannot underestimate the importance of the corporate parent role.
We will work together with local authorities to identify measures which could be put in place to improve the effectiveness of their corporate parent role, and we will write to them in the first instance to alert them to this work.
Next steps required
a) We will ask local authorities to explore how different approaches and/or models of corporate parenting, such as that developed by the London Borough of Barnet could be applied in their authority.
b) We will work with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( COSLA) to develop a "Good Corporate Parent" guide for issue to all elected members, chief executives and senior officers within each local authority. As part of this guide, we will recommend that councils ensure that:
- a clear involvement and consultation policy for looked after children and young people is developed and implemented which will guarantee the inclusion of their views at every level;
- all current and newly elected members are fully briefed on their role as corporate parent;
- the council establishes a means of regularly "celebrating success" for looked after children and young people;
- education (including further and higher education), training and employment needs for all their looked after children and young people are central to care/pathway planning and to the provision of appropriate accommodation;
- policies and protocols are developed or revised, together with local health services, to incorporate a proactive strategy and procedure for ensuring that all looked after children and young people are provided with a comprehensive physical and mental health service;
- elected members establish a robust scrutiny mechanism to ensure that a clear set of outcomes for looked after children are developed; including educational outcomes (including further and higher education), training and employment destinations, the number and nature of placement moves and moves between educational establishments. Those scrutiny mechanisms should regularly monitor progress across the council in achieving these outcomes.
Elected members have a central role in relation to ensuring that the corporate parent responsibilities of their council are discharged appropriately.
We will work together with COSLA and the Improvement Service to include corporate parenting in the induction programme for new elected members.
Next steps required
a) We will meet with COSLA and the Improvement Service to discuss and agree how to take this forward.
Educational outcomes of our looked after children and young people remain poor when compared to the wider school population and there continues to be disparity within and between local authorities.
We will ensure that progress on improving the educational outcomes of looked after children and young people is one of the key components of the outcome agreements for children's services to be tested with pathfinder local children's services partnerships.
Next steps required:
a) We will discuss and agree with pathfinder local children's services partnerships the content and appropriate resourcing of the outcome agreements.
Good corporate parents must provide support which meets the educational needs of their looked after children and young people and care leavers.
We will inform all local authorities, relevant educational establishments and care providers that they must be able to demonstrate in the course of their inspection cycles, that they actively meet the educational needs of all looked after children and young people for whom they have responsibility.
Next steps required:
a) We will ensure that the joint inspection arrangements for services for children have a consistent approach in relation to incorporating outcomes for looked after children and young people into their inspections of local authorities, health boards, educational establishments and care establishments.
b) The Care Commission, SWIA and HMIE will undertake specific inspection work into looked after children and young people to ensure the provision and performance of and future planning for young people leaving care, is rigorously evaluated and reported.
c) To ensure a consistent approach across the country, we will encourage all local authorities, relevant educational establishments and care providers to use the appropriate How Good Is Our School? ( HGIOS) self-evaluation document, (Inclusion and Equality - Part 1: Evaluating education and care placements for looked after children and young people).
d) We will encourage all local authorities, relevant educational establishments and care providers to develop an action plan, which is based on their HGIOS self evaluation and to be reviewed on an annual basis. We will ask the Care Commission, SWIA and HMIE to raise this at the time of inspection.
e) We will ask the relevant inspection agencies to undertake an inspection of all local authorities in relation to the effectiveness of their corporate parent role by 2008.
Parents, foster carers, residential workers, teachers, educational psychologists, social workers, health workers, appointed lead person and/or other relevant workers do not always feel equipped to provide the appropriate support and encouragement to our looked after children and young people.
We will improve training for parents, foster carers, residential workers, teachers - including teachers in training - social workers, health workers and appointed lead professionals.
Next steps required:
a) We will address foster carers' needs through the planned National Fostering Strategy and associated consultation.
b) We will revise the Learning with Care training materials which emphasise the importance of multi-agency and partnership working to improve the educational outcomes of looked after children and young people. We aim to complete this work by Summer 2007. We will also consider accreditation of these materials.
c) We will ensure that the Scottish Institute of Residential Child Care ( SIRCC) embed in their training courses for residential workers, modules on emotional literacy and the education of looked after children and young people, based on the Learning With Care training materials.
d) We will ensure that initial teacher educational ( ITE) course directors review those elements of their courses that relate to looked after children and young people, to ensure priority is given to those aspects.
e) We will continue to emphasise the need for multi-disciplinary working across service boundaries and the need to provide skills for staff, including leaders and managers in accordance with Changing Lives, the report of the 21st Century Social Work Review, along with the complementary National Strategy for the Development of the Social Service Workforce in Scotland. We are currently developing a paraprofessional role to serve this multi-agency working agenda.
f) Building on the activity and development initiated by Learning with Care we will, in conjunction with ITE and Continuous Professional Development ( CPD) Providers, the National CPD Co-ordinator, and Learning and Teaching Scotland, compile a resource aimed at both student and registered teachers.
g) Learning and Teaching Scotland, together with the National CPD Co-ordinator, will develop and facilitate CPD opportunities for teachers and other professionals to promote and support the educational participation and achievements of looked after children and young people.
h) Learning and Teaching Scotland will use their multi-agency expertise to share good and innovative practice on parental involvement and supporting children's learning. In addition, they will communicate with parents, foster carers and residential workers through the Parentzone website on how they can support their children's learning.
i) Through the Heads Together forum, Learning and Teaching Scotland will facilitate the sharing of ideas and emerging practice on a number of issues including leadership and approaches to supporting and raising achievement of looked after children and young people.
j) Action plans for each child (as set out in Getting It Right For Every Child) will spell out the contribution of professionals and their responsibilities.
It is essential that we have accurate information on all of our looked after children and young people in order to meet their needs most effectively.
We will continue to work in partnership with local authorities to deliver a more robust and comprehensive data collection and reporting framework in relation to the educational outcomes of Scotland's looked after children and young people.
Next steps required:
a) We will establish a working group with relevant representatives of local authorities, information system providers, Who Cares? Scotland, and the Scottish Executive to consider current practice in this area and develop the new framework, in the context of the Scottish Executive's streamlining bureaucracy agenda.
Appointed lead professionals, foster carers, residential workers, teachers and young people want to be more involved in supporting educational attainment and sharing good practice.
We will fund the development of a national network and information website for professionals, foster carers, residential workers, parents and looked after children and young people.
Next steps required:
a) We will commission the LAC Education Forum, in partnership with Learning and Teaching Scotland, to pilot the development of a national network and information website.