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Key issues and gaps
- Children in care are at risk of not realizing their potential and having poorer outcomes in terms of educational attainment, more secondary school absence, increased risk of offending, substance misuse and increased likelihood of young pregnancies.
- A significant inter-generational factor has also been identified in CiC admissions. 1 in 5 children in care had parents who were also in care themselves. Further investigative work is necessary to establish what necessary actions are needed to break the intergenerational cycle.
- There is the need for better preparation for independent living and more support for those leaving care, as over half of all care leavers exiting care between 2009-2011 were NEET or no longer known to care.
- A quarter of female care leavers had been pregnant and 8% of male and female care leavers from Jul 09 to Jun 11 were or had been a young parent, suggesting the need for more intensive support after exiting care and help with parenting skills to avoid intergenerational admittance into care for their children.
- Almost half of children admitted into care had been subject to child protection measures before admittance into care. Further investigative work is necessary to establish if child protection measures are working effectively and how they might be improved.
- The Head of Service for CiC has raised concerns that reductions to Housing Benefit due to ‘under-occupancy’ may create problems when exploring the feasibility of returning CiC home.
- The Children in Care survey (2011) identified that more than half of CiC did not know about the advocacy service available to them.
Recommendations for consideration by commissioners
The recent Government commissioned Munro Review on child protection ought to be given consideration by commissioners in relation to services for children in care.
The recommendations of the review by Prof Eileen Munro included –
- Giving professionals greater freedom from central prescription
- Allowing help to be provided based on assessed need;
- Move to unannounced inspections, with less frequent for LA's performing well
- Designation by LA’s of a Principal Child and Family Social Worker to report the views and experiences of the front line to all levels of management;
- New duty of LA’s to ensure sufficient services in place offering earlier ‘help’ and identifying where it’s needed.
- In theory, the freeing up of social workers time to spend more time working directly with children and young people and their families, and the provision of earlier help to families before they reach crisis, should help reduce the number of admissions to care.
- Commissioners may wish to consider a service or agreement with Housing Benefit which enables parents of children admitted into care to stay in their homes without an under-occupancy penalty being applied until the child has a permanency order or returns home. This would enable parents to stay in a home large enough for their child to return home to, enabling greater chance of reunification. The arrangement could be made upon a case by case basis and upon recommendation of a social worker where there is a reasonable chance of reunification in the future.
- Due to the significant inter-generational factor amongst Nottingham’s CiC, a service educating those soon to leave care on sexual health, family planning and parenting skills may help decrease young pregnancies amongst care leavers and reduce risk of care leavers’ children being admitted into care themselves.
- The implementation of Family Group Conferences may be a necessary utilisation of evidence-based intervention in order to reduce the numbers of children who have previously been under child protection measures from going into care (as well as children going into care generally).
- The findings of the children in care survey support that a Children in Care councillor may be necessary to enable children in care to have an independent person to talk to about any difficulties they may be experiencing and help CiC make sense of what has happened and is happening to them. This would also provide a platform for children to work through identifying positive family relationships and dynamics and may impact on their future success in their own family lives as adults, again reducing the risk of intergenerational admittance into care.
- A service specifically targeted around preparation for independent living, assisting with issues such as life skills, employability, building positive networks and relationships, training, housing, finance and budgeting etc would be useful to those leaving care, as a lack of preparation for leaving care was identified by care leavers in the CiC survey.
- Expansion of the “virtual head teacher” facility to children in care of all ages may help raise attainment levels amongst children in care, particularly as it has been identified by the DfE that “low attaining” KS2 pupils go on to be “low attaining” at KS4. As such it seems targeting extra tuition and support only at those who are at KS4 may be “too little too late”.
1. Who's at risk and why?
There are two main drivers that work in tandem to influence the size of the Children in Care (CiC) population; Population Density and Environment (CIN census 2011).
There is a correlation between socio-economic factors such as deprivation, alcohol and substance misuse and the volume of CiC. Also, socio-economic deprivation, poor parental mental health and a lack of neighborhood cohesion have been linked to child maltreatment (NSPCC).
The more deprived an area, the higher the likelihood of large CiC numbers. Nottingham is ranked 20th most deprived area on the indices of deprivation (DCLG) and in turn has high levels of CiC. Nationally the twenty LA’s ranked as having poorest environments have an average of 93.3 CiC per 10,000 population, and Nottingham sits within this group with 93 CiC per 10,000 population.
A significant inter-generational factor has also been identified in CiC admissions. In Nottingham of those whose parents were young enough to have had care episodes recorded on Carefirst, 21.2% had parents recorded as having been in the care of Nottingham City.
There is an increased risk of admission to care for young people aged over 15 years with 16-17 years olds making up the greatest percentage of the Nottingham cohort; however the reasons for this are currently unidentified.
Over the last 5 years within Nottingham there has been an increase in CiC due to abuse or neglect (making up 64% of the cohort), family dysfunction or family in acute stress.
The DfE states that the majority of children who remain in care are there because of abuse or neglect. Neglect is the most common reason for a child to be put on the child protection register or be subject to a child protection plan in the UK, and neglect often co-exists with other forms of child maltreatment. Surveys suggest that at least 16% of the population in Western cultures will experience some form of serious maltreatment in their childhood (NSPCC).
Children in care are also at risk of not realizing their potential and having poorer outcomes in terms of educational attainment, more secondary school absence, increased risk of offending, substance misuse and increased likelihood of young pregnancies. There are several relevant JSNA chapters which can also be referred to :Safeguarding, teenage pregnancy, parenting, child poverty, offending and substance misuse in children & young people.
2. The level of need in the population
The numbers of CiC within Nottingham have been rising at a rate of 4.5% year on year and as of 27th March 2012 Nottingham had 541 children in its care. If numbers of CiC continue to rise at this rate it is expected the population could exceed 600 during 2014/15. Although numbers of CiC have risen by 4.5% per year, over the same period the city’s 0-17 population only increased by 0.2% per year. This indicates the rise in CiC is due to more children in the existing population coming into care rather than being as a result of a population increase.
In comparison to statistical neighbours Nottingham is performing well in keeping its in-take low, as statistical neighbours have seen a rise in CiC in 2011 of +4 per 10,000 0-17 population, whereas Nottingham has seen no net change in the same period. On average 0.82% of children in England were in care at some point in 2010-11. Nottingham was above the national average with 1.34% being in care at some point during the year.
The most prevalent age groups within the cohort are 16-17 year olds and under 1’s. 15+ cohort has been the most prevalent since 2008 and is continuing to grow. These three most prevalent age groups (16, 17 and under 1’s) make up 34% of the total CiC population.
The CiC cohort is currently quite evenly distributed in regards to gender, with 52% Male and 48% female. The proportion of females in care has increased from 42% in 07/08, and accounted for 48% of the population since 08/09.
The CiC population is predominantly white with 68% of the cohort being white British, white Irish or White Other. The next largest group is Black, Black British or Black Mixed comprising 21% of the CiC population. 8% are categorised as Other or Other Mixed, 3% are Asian, Asian British or Asian Mixed and 1% Chinese. The ethnicity of the CiC population has stayed relatively stable over the last 8 years since 2004/5 and it appears in comparison to Nottingham’s Black population Black CiC are over represented in the cohort comprising 21% of the cohort relative to only 10% of the general population. The ‘Asian’ population is under-represented in the CiC cohort, making up only 3% of the care cohort compared to 13% of the general 0-15 population. Similarly, ‘White’ CiC only make up 68% of the care population compared to 74% of the general 0-15 population in the City.
The majority of Nottingham’s CiC are in care with a Need reason of ‘Abuse or Neglect’ (64%). The next three most common Need reasons accounting for 8-9% of the CiC population each comprise ‘Absent Parenting’, ‘Family Dysfunction’, and ‘Family in Acute Stress’. ‘Disability’ of the CiC or ‘Parental Illness or Disability’ account for 4% each, and 1% of CiC are in care due to ‘Socially Unacceptable Behaviour’.
From 2007/08 there have been increases in the number of CiC with Need reasons of ‘Abuse or Neglect’, ‘Family Dysfunction’ and ‘Family in Acute Stress’, and a small decrease in the number in care because of ‘Parental Illness or Disability’. Outcomes The data in this section relating to educational performance is taken from performance information for looked after and adopted children and young people released by the DfE on 22nd December 2011.
Education – Attendance In 2010/11 there were 49 CiC (from any LA) attending primary schools in Nottingham. Of this cohort absence levels were 5.2% an increase from the previous year in which levels were at 3.9% of the cohort. Of CiC attending Nottingham schools, 4.1% were persistently absent compared to 2.6% for non-CiC however at present the reasons for this are unknown. There has been an improvement in total absenteeism amongst CiC attending secondary schools, a decrease from 9.7% in 2009-10 to 8.8% in 2010-11. There has also been an improvement in persistent absenteeism seeing a decrease from 16.7% being persistently absent in 2009/10 to 10% in 2010/11, still slightly higher than the non-CiC population persistent absence rates at 6.7%.
Education – SEN Nottingham’s CiC cohort has higher numbers of children with special needs identified than nationally for children in care. Data gathered for the recent fostering inspection revealed 80% of Nottingham’s CiC cohort had a special need identified. Nationally there is a much lower prevalence rate of special needs within the child population of 25% (both CiC and none CiC).
Educational Attainment KS2 tests are normally taken at the end of primary school provision (year 6). The core subjects are English, maths and science. The national expected ‘standard’ for this test is the achievement of a level 4. The performance indicator therefore measures the proportion of children achieving a level 4 or above (level 4 and level 5). The analysis below considers the attainment of CiC over the last 3 years (2009-2011).
KS2 Around 10 to 15 CiC complete KS2 each year and Nottingham’s CiC cohort are performing at the same levels for KS2 as nationally for CiC with an average 37% of those who were looked after continually for 12 months achieving at least Level 4 in both English and Maths between 2009-2011. However Nottingham’s performance (from local data) at this indicator has decreased from 40% in 2010 to 29% in 2011, and is lower than performance levels as a whole in Nottingham which were 70% achieving Level 4.
KS4 KS4 (GCSE) tests are normally taken at the end of the compulsory secondary school phase. A pass is a grade G and above. A ‘good’ GCSE grade is between grades A* to C. Around 40 of Nottingham’s CiC complete KS4 each year, and Nottingham’s CiC cohort are not performing at the same level as CiC nationally. Nottingham’s average for achieving 5+ A*-C GCSE’s among the CiC cohort was 7% between 2009-2011, compared with 11% of CiC nationally and 44% amongst all Nottingham children. The DfE have recently released data showing that nationally 93.5% of ‘low attaining’ (i.e. below expected level) pupils at KS2 go on to subsequently be ‘low attaining’ at KS4. Given that over the last three years the majority of our CiC have achieved below the expected level for KS2, the subsequent performance at KS4 is reflective of this general trend and highlights the importance of putting available additional resources in place at as early a stage as possible.
Health of CiC Nottingham appears to be performing well as Corporate Parent in ensuring our children in care are healthy both physically and emotionally, performing better than nationally in ensuring physical, dental and emotional health for Nottingham CiC.
Health assessments The DfE released data in December 2011 on the percentage of CiC with up to date annual health assessments. 88.6% of Nottingham’s CiC in care as at 31st March 2011 were up to date with their health assessments, better than the 84.3% recorded nationally and very close to the 89.9% averaged across our statistical neighbour group.
Dental assessments 93% of Nottingham’s CiC looked after continuously for at least 12 months as at 31st March 2011 had up to date dental checks. This compares well with the National average of 82.4% and with our statistical neighbour group average for the same period of 87.6%
Emotional and behavioural health Emotional and behavioural health of CiC is measured by the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). In the most recent DfE statistical release for the year up to 31st March 2011, Nottingham returned an average emotional and behavioural health score of 16.5 (out of a maximum of 40) for CiC who were 4-16 years old and in care continuously for at least 12 months. This was above the National average of 13.9 and above our statistical neighbours who returned an average score of 15.0 (a lower score indicating a better emotional and behavioural health). A high SDQ score will result in a referral for specialist assessment by CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health service).
Offending behaviour Data released by the DfE on 14th December 2011 showed Nottingham reported having 9% of over 10 year olds in care (looked after for 12months continuously) who were convicted or subject to a final warning in 2010/11. This is higher than CiC figures nationally which were 7.3% and our statistical neighbour average which was 8.7%. At the end of March 2012 there were 5 remand placements amongst Nottingham CiC. The number of remand placements has increased in line with CiC population growth accounting for 1% of placements since 2005/6. In comparison to 0-17 year olds across the city as a whole, CiC are twice as likely to offend as their non CiC peers. Across the whole city 4.1% of 0-17 year olds were convicted or subject to final warning compared to 9% of CiC in the same period. Of care leavers from June 09 to June 11, 9% are known to have had involvement with YOT, the majority of which with an offence category of either “Theft and Handling Stolen Goods” or “violence against the person”.
Substance misuse Nottingham’s CiC population have higher prevalence of substance misuse then CiC nationally and our statistical neighbours (during 2010/11). 7.4% of Nottingham’s CiC population were identified as having a substance misuse problem during the year to 31st March 2011 compared to 4.3% of CiC nationally and 3.8% average of CiC within our statistical neighbours.
Teenage pregnancies In Nottingham 25% of female care leavers from Jul 09 to Jul 11 have been pregnant, 8% of which have become pregnant since leaving care. Also 8% of male and female care leavers are or have been a young parent. Female care leaver pregnancy rates appear to be at similar levels to those nationally, with a quarter of females leaving care in the UK being either pregnant or already mothers, and almost half become mothers by age 24 (Who Cares Trust). .
3. Current services in relation to need
Children in Care Charter
The Children in Care Charter was developed by the Children in Care Council in conjunction with officers from CiC services. Formally adopted by the Corporate Parenting Board in September 2011 it replaced the previous Corporate Parenting Pledge. It contains four commitments concerning and eleven commitments to children and young people in care, aimed at ensuring “all children and young people in and leaving our care have the right home and support to keep them safe and well and to help them grow into happy, healthy, successful and fulfilled young adults who are optimistic about their future”. The charter is part of the Family pledge group of charters which also includes the Children and Young Peoples’ Charter and the Parents and Carers Charter, both of which are generic for the Nottingham Children’s Partnership. A copy of the children in care charter can be accessed on the children’s Partnership pages of the Nottingham City Council website or accessed via the above hyperlink.
Corporate Parenting Board
The Corporate Parenting Board meets on a bi-monthly basis and is chaired by the Portfolio Holder for Children’s services and in strong attendance are a number of Councillors from backgrounds in social work, probation, health visitors, education, and adoption.
The group seeks to “secure Councillor and cross-departmental involvement and commitment throughout the Council to deliver better outcomes for children in our care”, and “raise the profile of looked after children and their carers, and act as champions for the needs and rights of looked after children in the Council’s various service areas, political groups and settings”.
Acting as corporate parents for our CiC, the Board offers scrutiny of decision making and monitoring of outcome improvements. The Chair of the Board actively participates in the CiC agenda and recently he has undertaken Regulation 33 visits of children’s residential homes, attended foster carer business meetings and met with the Children in Care Council.
Children in Care Council
The Children in Care Council is a council of children either in care or who are care leavers of a variety of ages. The council is made up of two sub-groups, Aspirations, which is the 15+ (care leavers) group, and Inspirations, which is the under 15 children in care group. The two separate groups make up the CiC council, and they meet bi-monthly, as well as coming together to form the full CiC council which also meets bi-monthly. The council is engaged in the following co-production activities
: - As a consultation partner to services, assisting in the development of service plans (e.g. support for virtual school team service plan development)
- Assessing the results of the CiC survey and allocating a RAG rating before the findings are presented to the Corporate Parenting Board. - Recruitment and selection of social care staff including internal (e.g. IRO staff) and external (e.g. YMCA supported living manager)
- Development of specifications for tendered contracts (e.g. advocacy service) including analysis, spec writing and interviewing - Support for OFSTED inspections, providing focus group evidence on user involvement - Work with Corporate Parenting Board and CiC outcomes group officers to develop Corporate Parenting Plan
- Participation in workforce and partner training and development session (e.g. delivering workshop activities at YOT/CiC conference) - Support for engagement and participation work across Safeguarding Directorate
- Representation of Nottingham City CiC at regional and national level (e.g. contributing to Children’s Minister Tim Loughton MPs CiC listening exercises)
Placements are split into 7 different types, with the four most commonly used being City Fostering, fostering arrangements with private providers, External residential placements and adoption. There has been a reduction in CiC placements with internal foster carers from 55% of CiC in 2004/5 to 42% of CiC at the end of March 2012. The proportion of CiC placed with agency foster carers has increased from 12% in 2004/05 to 34% at the end of March 2012. Internal residential placements decreased from 7% in 2004/05 to 3% at the end of March 2012. Over the same period External Residential placements increased from 6% to 10%. Internal placements may be decreasing as the CiC population increases and internal capacity reaches its limit.
The increasing CiC population and increasing proportion of placements made with private providers, along with the high cost of external fostering and residential compared to internal, has had a significant impact on the cost of CiC placements. However the extent of this impact has been reduced significantly from April 2011 as a result of commissioning strategies including membership of the East Midlands Regional Framework.
Placement stability is measured by the % of CiC with three or more placements during the preceding year.
Performance (indicated by a decreasing %) has been declining with the number of CiC with 3+ placements in the previous year increasing from 8.8% in Mar 11 to 11.7% in Dec 11. Nationally ‘good performance’ is considered to be a figure below 16%.
Longer term placement stability is measured by considering the % of looked after CiC under 16 looked after continuously for at least 2.5 years and living in the same placement for at least 2 years. Performance at this indicator has improved from 61.9% in March 11 to 73.3% in December 11, the highest we have reported.
Considering the two indicators together, long term stability is improving consistently whilst we are seeing a decrease in short term stability. This could be as a result of an increase in short term, emergency placements made when a child enters care.
There are clearly strong correlations between the CiC cohort and the Child Protection (CP) cohort. An analysis of the children being admitted into care throughout 2010-11 revealed that 48.2% had previously been subject to child protection measures at some point in their lives.
On average there were 371 days between the start of child protection measures and the child being admitted into care, this suggests that child protection is not always an immediate precursor to care, only 18.5% of the 2010-11 care admissions had a CP Plan that started within 60 days of being admitted into care.
It appears rare that a child is taken into care within a matter of days or weeks of coming to the attention of social services. The more traditional route spans a period of months or years and there is typically a number of referrals followed by a series of assessments before the case escalates to the need for child protection measures or care proceedings.
This suggests that there is a window of opportunity prior to a child being admitted into care. There will be numerous examples when the activities and interventions of social workers prevented a case from escalating into care. These successes need to be understood with organisational learning being extracted and shared; what types of intervention have had the most impact?
Inspections of Children’s Services
Looked After Children Safeguarding Ofsted Inspection 2010
An Ofsted inspection in December 2010 of ‘safeguarding and looked after children services’ judged both the overall effectiveness of Safeguarding and capacity for improving services were as ‘Good’.
Their resulting report highlighted “outstanding developments in respect of early intervention projects, family support and children’s centres”; developments identified as moving services towards early identification and intervention. Nottingham schools were recognised as playing a significant role in supporting vulnerable children and young people, and the CAF was seen as being well used by health, education and voluntary sector partners.
Fostering Ofsted Inspection, 2011
Nottingham’s Fostering Service was inspected by Ofsted in December 2011 and given an overall rating of ‘Good’, with inspectors acknowledging this was despite challenges from tighter budgets and higher demands.
The inspection report recognised strong leadership and performance management, and engagement from carers in working with staff to overcome service shortfalls. The report noted the need for ‘Connected Persons’ training to be focussed more on children and young peoples needs.
Targeted Support Team
The Targeted Support Team (TST) deliver support to children, young people and their families/carers over an intensive six week period. TST offer services that support returns home from care where appropriate, support placements at risk of breaking down, support transitions from care or between placements, and that provide ‘care divert’ early intervention.
In 2010/11, TST received 277 referrals, of which 180 were fully activated and received support. Of the 277 referrals received, twenty cases (7%) were re-referrals.
Of the 180 cases activated in 2010/11,
- 133 were to divert CYP from care
- 15 were to support transitions home from care
- 24 were to offer support to stabilise foster placements.
In 2010/11 168 cases were closed, with 148 successful outcomes (88%) where at the end of the TST intervention period the home situation was stabilised, the placement transition was completed, or the placement was stabilised.
TST have targeted a success rate of 75% for 2011/12, and as of 16/1/12 reported performance at over 90%.
Children in Care Team
The CiC Team was implemented in early 2012 with the purpose of meeting the specific needs of CiC aged 0-14 years who have a permanency plan created following their 28 day review.
By taking responsibility for this cohort efficiencies will be created, and capacity freed up in Safeguarding teams to improve timeliness and quality of assessments.
Children and young people in care with permanency decisions are often our most vulnerable cohort. Dedicated service provision and development of specialist skills by staff will contribute to improving outcomes for this cohort and allow care plans to be progressed more efficiently, reducing drift and creating associated cost savings.
Support for CiC attending school
The Virtual Headteacher for CiC provides a number of support services to the cohort where performance is identified as going “off track” and where additional help for exams is required
– - Additional 1-1 tuition is being provided to CiC in Year 10 and 11 where appropriate (i.e. not where young people are too far behind to benefit from it).
- Currently seventeen Year 10 pupils are receiving tuition.
- Drop-in sessions are held for CiC in Year 10 and 11 where additional help is given, and study packs are distributed. This is shortly being rolled out to Year 9s also.
- Funding is available for CiC wishing to re-take exams or take exams late. CiC are supported beyond their GCSEs by flagging up and supporting attendance at opportunities provided by Universities (e.g. summer schools, mentoring, etc).
Implementation of a Personal Education Plan (PEP) for CiC at Key Stage 5 (Years 12 and 13) is currently being planned.
The 15 Plus team was set up to provide a consistent social worker for young people through their transition period to adulthood and take the lead responsibility for co-ordinating and implementing young peoples Pathway Plans.
The team work with young people age 15 to 24 years with the overall aim to support young people in their preparation into adult-hood.
Each young person allocated to 15 Plus team will be given the opportunity to explore their independence with a support package where they can develop and learn or relearn some of the skills which are needed in order for them to live independently and live successfully within the community.
Children in Care
Police Officer Nottingham City Council is the only Local Authority to have a designated Children in Care Police Officer. She is responsible for ensuring young people in care are safe and secure and to prevent the criminalisation of young people.
CAMHS (children and adolescents mental health service)
CAMHS is a group of professionals who will support young people with all aspects of their emotional well-being. They ensure that the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ’s) is completed to identify immediate mental health and emotional difficulties amongst CiC. They offer consultancy to carers and individual work to young people when required. More information about CAMHS can be found in the Children’s Mental Health JSNA.
NSPCC Reunification Project
Nottingham City is one of seven Local Authorities engaged in an NSPCC Family Reunification project. This is a research driven programme with involvement from university departments, including from Oxford University, whereby the NSPCC provides specially trained social workers to work alongside LA social workers to identify cases where children and young people in care have a good chance of successfully returning home.
The programme will look at a range of factors, including whether parents have made sufficient ‘progress’ since their child(ren) entered care, and identifying ‘protective factors’ indicating whether families have a good chance of successful reunification, and allow much earlier decision making.
4. Projected service use and outcomes in 3-5 years and 5-10 years
Numbers of children in care have been increasing year on year, and as stated previously if numbers of CiC continue to rise at the same rate CiC could exceed 600 in 2014/15. There are also external factors that could affect numbers of children in care, such as changes in governmental policy putting increased pressure on families and the impact of the economic recession putting strain on families’ ability to cope, particularly in combination with austerity measures.
Welfare reforms by the current Government that began in 2010 are increasing pressure on low income families and young people, and this is likely to have an adverse effect on social care by increasing demand for services.
Reforms to date have included reductions to tax credits, child benefit being frozen, and reductions to Housing Benefit. Further reforms are due to be implemented in coming months and will include further reductions to tax credits, and abolishment of Council Tax benefits and the Social Fund in favour of local schemes.
There will also be further reductions to Housing Benefits which will include reductions where ‘under-occupancy’ exists for working age households and within the social rented sector.
With increasing unemployment and associated problems caused by continuing economic issues, stress on low income families may be increased, and could be exacerbated by reductions in financial support as a result of these reforms. This increased risk of financial stress on families could have an adverse affect on the numbers of children coming into care as there is a link between deprivation and numbers of CiC.
The Head of Service for CiC has raised concerns that reductions to Housing Benefit due to ‘under-occupancy’ may create problems when exploring the feasibility of returning CiC home.
Where family homes have become under-occupied as a result of children entering care and consequently parents/guardians have moved to smaller accommodation, returning CiC may not be possible, or additional work and funding will be required to move families back to adequate accommodation. This may lead to longer retention of CiC and so higher overall numbers of CiC.
Funding of unaccompanied asylum seeking children.
There will also be an increased pressure on service use in relation to costs as a result of changes in the funding of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC).
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) funds UASC placements until they reach 18 years of age. In 2011/12 a new policy was implemented that placed the responsibility of funding the majority of post-18 UASC cases on LAs. For the UASC cohort between 18 and 21 years old, each Local Authority is now responsible for funding the first 25 cases, with the UKBA contributing £150 per week to the costs of any cases beyond this.
This change in policy represents a further pressure on CiC placements budgets, by transferring the financial impact of delays in Home Office processes and decision making to the Local Authorities in which the UASC reside.
In 2011-12 a total of 13 UASC children were discharged from care and as care leavers (providing they met the criteria to be classed as care leavers), the local authority would be required to fund them until they receive their status from the Home Office. Anecdotally many UASC children have not received their status until age 21 meaning the authority would have responsibilities for UASC care leavers sometimes for another three years post 18.
As only 13 UASC children were discharged from care in 2011-12 it is unlikely UKBA will have to make any contributions towards the care of post 18 UASC, particularly as overall UASC numbers have declined consistently over the last 3 years.
At present Nottingham City Council project they will place post 18 UASC in care for 1,750 days in 2012-13 at an associated cost of £68,903.
Big Ticket Reviews
Some of the increased demand for service should hopefully be counter-acted by the successes made through the “Big Ticket” reviews.
Nottingham City Children and Families are carrying out six interdependent projects with the aim of reshaping prevention and safeguarding services for young people. These projects focus on
- Supporting complex and troubled families in a more efficient and joined-up way.
- Speeding up the adoption process to improve outcomes and reduce cost.
- Reducing the number and cost of CiC. - Reducing cost of internal residential care provision
. - Redesigning preventative services to deal with more complex cases.
- Placing Family Support in schools to respond to problems earlier.
If these are successful numbers and costs of CiC should be reduced with speedier adoptions where appropriate and more earlier intervention through schools in turn reducing numbers of CiC.
5. Evidence of what works
A number of pilot programmes of interventions have been implemented in some local authorities and through the piloting of these projects LA’s have found improved outcomes for certain groups of children, evidence of cost-prevention through increased placement stability, a reduction in use of residential care and other high-cost services as well as wider system changes such as up-skilling of workforce and more positive perceptions of CiC particularly by the children themselves. Some of these pilot schemes are:
• Family Group Conferences (FGC):
Family Group Conferences are family-led decision making meetings being used by many local authorities to make safe plans for vulnerable children. They are seen as an effective way of engaging the support of the wider family in planning for children at an early stage of concerns, to support birth parents and reduce the need for children to come into care.
Evidence clearly demonstrates a range of excellent outcomes and FGC’s are now used n more than 60 LA’s in England and Wales and 20 countries worldwide.
Care2Work is an employability programme for care leavers provided in association with NCAS with phase 1 running between 2009-2011, and phase 2 having funding for the next 2 years. In phase 1 150 LA’s signed up to take part and they engaged over 400 local and national companies offering 4609 employability opportunities.
More information on evidence based interventions can be found on the DfE website at http://www.education.gov.uk/childrenandyoungpeople/families/childrenincare/a0069857/evidence-based-intervention or via the hyperlinks above.
6. User views
CiC and Care Leaver Survey
The 2011 CiC and Care Leaver survey was carried out by the Insight JSNA team from December ‘11 to February ’12 with the purpose of providing an indication of how well CiC and care leavers think the City is performing as a Corporate Parent.
714 questionnaires were sent out and134 responses were received back by Children’s Services (18.8% response rate). Areas service users thought the council performed well on:
• 88.5% felt that their social workers treated them with respect and 96.8% for the carers.
• 86.6% felt that ‘where they are living is the right care place for them’.
• 41.8% said that the waiting time for their current care places was less than one month and 41% said that they could not remember how long the waiting time was.
• 97% felt safe where they lived; 94.8% felt safe at school and 96.8% felt safe in their neighbourhood.
Areas service user views showed the council didn’t perform as well on:
• More than half (53.5%) did not know about the advocacy service and 39.4% did not know about the complaints service.
• We asked children and young people who they would talk to if there was a problem with their social workers or carers. Top three answers were
My Social Worker
This indicates children are not aware they can talk to an advocate or make a complaint.
• Almost a quarter of children (24.1%) did not know about their Personal Education Plan (PEP), 24% were not happy with their PEP and more than a third felt that they weren’t involved in drawing up their PEP.
• More than a third (41%) worried about their lives all the time or often.
Overall, the council appears to be doing well in making children in care feel safe and matching them to correct placements, however there is need for improvement in making service users aware of complaints procedures, improve their satisfaction with PEP’s and help them feel less worried about their lives.
In regards to the councils overall care of CiC, 1 in 10 children in care and care leavers stated they were very unhappy or unhappy with the way Nottingham City Council takes care of them. Also 1 in 10 was not sure about the way Nottingham City Council takes care of them.
79% were very happy or happy with the way Nottingham City Council takes care of them. Once the survey is completed the CiC council assess the results and allocate RAG ratings to the findings before they are presented to the Corporate Parenting Board. From this point relevant actions are identified and applied via the CiC working group.
Various actions have been identified from the CiC survey 2011 and have now been put in place. In order to ensure children in care are aware of the advocacy service and independent visitor service available to them, as well as improve their satisfaction with PEP’s and try to help them feel less worried about their lives, the following actions were implemented.
* Advocacy and Independent Visitor Promotional material was re-issued to children’s services management. This same promotional material was issued directly to providers (e.g. foster carers and residential homes) so that they can ensure children in care are aware of these services.
* Independent reviewing officers will now verify at every Looked After Child review that young people are aware of the advocacy and IV (independent visitor) scheme. Advocates now carry out monthly visits to residential care homes to ensure children are aware there is an advocate available and have the opportunity to access the advocate easily.
* The advocacy and IV service shall be delivered to all children in care not just those placed within the city.
* The CiC Outcomes Group shall closely monitor the PEP completion process, and now the child in care must put their signature on the PEP to verify that they were involved in the development of it, as well as a copy being sent to the child in care.
* Strengths and difficulties questionnaires shall be completed in a timely manner to help identify the emotional well being of children in care and the results should make their way to the relevant professional to ensure appropriate support is in place.
The 2012 Children in Care survey has been completed and the results of this are due to be made available from April 2013.
7. Equality Impact Assessments
An equality impact assessment was conducted for the children in care team in February 2012. This assessment outlined that the implementation of a children in care team would have a particular benefit to people from different ethnic backgrounds, men, women, transgender citizens, disabled citizens and carers, people from different faith groups, people of all sexualities, old and young people and looked after children. It was thought all equalities strands had been considered and that citizens from all equalities strands would benefit from this and that there was no major change needed.
An equality impact assessment was also conducted for the restructure of the 15+ management team to incorporate an assistant manager to line manage a team of personal advisers who work with care leavers.
It was assessed that no major change was needed as citizens will receive a more beneficial service for their transistion into adulthood as staff would sustain an ongoing role in their lives.
Both these equality impact assessments which relate to CiC can be accessed at http://www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=5035 or via the Nottingham City Council website.
8. Unmet needs and service gaps
• Children in care are at risk of not realizing their potential and having poorer outcomes in terms of educational attainment, more secondary school absence, increased risk of offending, substance misuse and increased likelihood of young pregnancies.
• A significant inter-generational factor has also been identified in CiC admissions. 1 in 5 children in care had parents who were also in care themselves. Further investigative work is necessary to establish what necessary actions are needed to break the intergenerational cycle.
• There is the need for better preparation for independent living and more support for those leaving care, as over half of all care leavers exiting care between 2009-2011 were NEET or no longer known to care.
• A quarter of female care leavers had been pregnant and 8% of male and female care leavers from Jul 09 to Jun 11 were or had been a young parent, suggesting the need for more intensive support after exiting care and help with parenting skills to avoid intergenerational admittance into care for their children.
• Almost half of children admitted into care had been subject to child protection measures before admittance into care. Further investigative work is necessary to establish if child protection measures are working effectively and how they might be improved.
• The Head of Service for CiC has raised concerns that reductions to Housing Benefit due to ‘under-occupancy’ may create problems when exploring the feasibility of returning CiC home.
• The Children in Care survey (2011) identified that more than half of CiC did not know about the advocacy service available.
9. Recommendations for consideration by commissioners
• The recent Government commissioned Munro Review on child protection ought to be given consideration by commissioners in relation to services for children in care.
The recommendations of the review by Prof Eileen Munro included –
- Giving professionals greater freedom from central prescription
- Allowing help to be provided based on assessed need;
- Move to unannounced inspections, with less frequent for LA's performing well
- Designation by LA’s of a Principal Child and Family Social Worker to report the views and experiences of the front line to all levels of management;
- New duty of LA’s to ensure sufficient services in place offering earlier ‘help’ and identifying where it’s needed. In theory, the freeing up of social workers time to spend more time working directly with children and young people and their families, and the provision of earlier help to families before they reach crisis, should help reduce the number of admissions to care.
• Commissioners may wish to consider a service or agreement with Housing Benefit which enables parents of children admitted into care to stay in their homes without an under-occupancy penalty being applied until the child has a permanency order or returns home. This would enable parents to stay in a home large enough for their child to return home to, enabling greater chance of reunification. The arrangement could be made upon a case by case basis and upon recommendation of a social worker where there is a reasonable chance of reunification in the future.
• Due to the significant inter-generational factor amongst Nottingham’s CiC, a service educating those soon to leave care on sexual health, family planning and parenting skills may help decrease young pregnancies amongst care leavers and reduce risk of care leavers’ children being admitted into care themselves. • The implementation of Family Group Conferences may be a necessary utilisation of evidence-based intervention in order to reduce the numbers of children who have previously been under child protection measures from going into care (as well as children going into care generally).
• The findings of the children in care survey support that a Children in Care councillor may be necessary to enable children in care to have an independent person to talk to about any difficulties they may be experiencing and help CiC make sense of what has happened and is happening to them. This would also provide a platform for children to work through identifying positive family relationships and dynamics and may impact on their future success in their own family lives as adults, again reducing the risk of intergenerational admittance into care.
• A service specifically targeted around preparation for independent living assisting with issues such as life skills, employability, building positive networks and relationships, training, housing, finance and budgeting etc would be useful to those leaving care as a lack of preparation for leaving care was identified by care leavers in the CiC survey. • Expansion of the “virtual head teacher” facility to children in care of all ages may help raise attainment levels amongst children in care, particularly as it has been identified by the DfE that “low attaining” KS2 pupils go on to be “low attaining” at KS4. As such it seems targeting extra tuition and support only at those who are at KS4 may be “too little too late”.
10. Further needs assessment required
• We must understand the reasons why the CiC population is increasing so that appropriate and timely help and intervention is put in place, and wherever possible families are supported to remain together.
• We need to understand the factors that result in admissions to care so that we can then focus resources on supporting families to minimise admissions. More support and earlier identification of families needing support is required, and the Children’s Big Ticket 2012/12 will begin to address this.
• We need to understand the factors that lead the 16-17 year old cohort coming into care, due to the increasing representation of this group amongst CiC. By identifying key indicators for this cohort entering care we can then focus resources on supporting families to further minimise admissions.
• A greater understanding of what comprises a successful intervention or action that prevents a child protection case escalating to requiring a care placement, (and which interventions have the most impact) needs to be developed.
• Further work needs to be done to understand why CiC absenteeism is increasing and why CiC have higher rates of absenteeism than their non-CiC counterparts. We need to look at the reasons for this to try to improve attendance figures, particularly as it would be assumed that primary school children would be physically taken to school whilst in care.
• Care leavers need to be in a position to thrive and achieve in their post-care lives so that we can reduce the impact of the intergenerational cycle in admissions. More work may need to be done in finding out what we can learn from care leavers who have achieved in education, work or family life and try to apply this learning to our leaving care cohort to better prepare them for independent living and more successful lives after care.
• Further research could be done in how best to support CiC with more complex needs such as substance misuse and offending, particularly as Nottingham CiC cohort have higher prevalence of these issues than nationally.
• Further research could be done into whether poorer outcomes (such as offending behaviour) are gained before or after coming into care, and if gained after coming into care which types of placements result in the worst outcomes for children. If poorer outcomes are gained before coming into care, further research may be required to establish if children are being kept at home too long before coming into care. If these negative home environments are what is causing poor outcomes, by keeping children at home longer we may be further reducing their life chances.
Paulette Thompson-Omenka, Head of Children in Care, Nottingham City Council
Sharon Clarke, Service Manager Children in Care, Nottingham City Council
Grace Brough, Insight Officer, Quality and Commissioning, Nottingham City Council
Yu-Ling Liu-Smith, Insight Analyst, Quality and Commissioning, Nottingham City Council
Anthony Chesters, Performance and Monitoring Officer, Quality and Commissioning, Nottingham City Council
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