One of the 11 priority themes identified for the JSNA’s current programme of work is children looked after (CLA). These are children and young people for whom Warwickshire County Council is responsible, either by assuming parental responsibility under a legal order or planning care and support through a voluntary agreement with parents. Although some will make distinctions between terms, being ‘looked after’ in this document is also referred to as being ‘in care’ or ‘accommodated’. This needs assessment will inform our strategic planning, commissioning and service development aimed at reducing the need for children and young people to come into care.
To reduce the numbers of children coming into care, we need to:
- Prevent children from entering care in the first place
- Have effective care plans for those who do come into care so that their time in care is either short or progressing towards the best possible outcome
- Have effective pathway plans for those leaving care, so that they continue to thrive when they leave the system and do not need to re-enter care (‘step down’)
The main focus of this needs assessment will be stage 1 – preventing entry into care in the first place. The needs of these children will overlap with those that have previously been in care and need support to stay out of care. Part 1 of the CLA needs assessment focused on the current CLA population, changing trends over time, comparisons with other authorities, outcomes for CLA and care leavers, and predictions of future needs. It also began to look at the factors determining whether or not children come into care, by examining the relationship between deprivation and CLA numbers, and the education, health, and crime outcomes of children in care. Part 1 of the CLA needs assessment is available here.
Commissioning recommendations are below. For the full list of recommendations, including operational, data and recommendations for further investigation please click the link below.
- An outcomes-based commissioning model should be developed, which focuses on preventing and reducing the need for children to be looked after. Services should be commissioned or provided based on the outcomes required, rather than around specific models of provision. Particular attention should be paid to the transition point between tiers 3 and 4 where services should be available with the specific aim of diverting children and young people from care.
- Develop and refine an agreed performance framework which is used by all relevant services (commissioned or provided internally) in order to measure performance in line with agreed outcomes, and be held accountable for their success in diverting children and young people from care. Service user feedback should be part of this performance framework.
- Interventions should be planned in line with the Child Poverty strategy, to help reduce the impact of poverty and social isolation on abuse and neglect. Particular focus should be on the areas of greatest deprivation (deciles 1 and 2), which can sometimes be hidden in our relatively affluent county. The north of the county is particularly vulnerable to this, with higher deprivation and higher recorded incidence of abuse and neglect.
- The council should plan early intervention services in conjunction with schools and universal health services. These services will often be the first point on the child’s journey, and we must ensure there are no gaps between these and any higher tier provision commissioned by the local authority.
- Outcomes and services should be grounded in evidence. Research consistently shows that early intervention and promoting resilience in children and families can help them manage their vulnerabilities and avoid the need for high-end intervention. Family dysfunction is still an issue for children entering care in Warwickshire. Interventions should therefore be aimed at improving and maintaining family relationships wherever possible.
- Where decisions are made about redesigning early intervention services, measures should always be put in place so that the impact of these decisions can later be evaluated.
To read the full Part 2 report please click here.