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Overview

Background papers: children :: Looked After Children :: Overview

Introduction

This chapter of the JSNA looks at the level of need and key issues faced by Looked After Children (LAC) in Medway. It outlines the needs of Looked After Children and how the current service is meeting those needs. It highlights key issues and gaps and makes recommendations for Commissioning.

Within our care population there are groups of children with particular needs which must be recognised and responded to by everyone working with them to ensure they too can achieve the best possible outcomes. Key priorities for looked after children include; supporting provisions to ensure where possible that children return home, increasing the pool of high quality foster carers particularly those able to offer placements to children and young people with complex and or specialist needs. Securing sufficiency of high quality accommodation and support for our 16+ Looked After Young People and Care Leavers. Raising aspirations of looked after children through effective placement matching and the development of close relationships that support educational attainment and emotional resilience. In addition wherever possible we will continue to seek permanent placements for our children and young people, if this is not possible within their own families we will seek to achieve this through adoption or Special Guardianship arrangements or Residence Orders.

Finally we know that the transition to leaving care can be challenging for some young people experience and as such we will support our young people to secure work, training or further and higher education, ensuring they are prepared and armed with the skills and knowledge for adulthood and living independently.

Key Issues and Gaps

  1. There is a clear gap in the provision of robust data at a local level in order to inform service provision.
  2. Historically poor contractual arrangements have meant that some provision is not of sufficient quality.
  3. The current commissioned health and mental health services are not meeting the needs of our Looked After Children and the single point of access is not managing all the referrals
  4. There are an insufficient number and type of placements, within Medway to meet the of needs of Looked After Children
  5. There is a need to continue to proactively support the use of Special Guardianships and Residence orders where appropriate in order to secure permanency for our Looked After Children.
  6. There is a need to evaluate and monitor better outcomes for children place placed out of area.
  7. There is a need to monitor the impact on services of children from out of area who are placed within Medway. Of particular concern is the impact this maybe having on the LAC health team provision.
  8. There is a need to undertake further analysis with regards to the numbers of children at risk of child sexual exploitation and those currently being abused in this way.
  9. There is a need to support our 16+ transition into adulthood by offering quality and choice in accommodation and support though a range of cost effective provisions.
  10. The needs of Looked After Children with profound and multiple disabilities are not fully understood and as such there may be more gaps in provision than the lack of residential services for this group.
  11. Whilst Medway Council recognises the skill and commitment many foster carers there is still a need to increase the number of carers who can respond to complex and specialist needs of looked after children at short notice
  12. Educational attainment level of Looked After Children requires the concerted effort of educational professionals and children's social services in order to improve the position at all key stages.
  13. The extent of Child Sexual Exploitation is not yet clear in Medway despite recent efforts to collect and collate reliable data.

Recommendations for commissioning

  1. For commissioning to work with the Children in Care to develop services and support around the continuum of care model. The provision of standard, complex and specialist services and support should sit at the heart of further provision.
  2. To map against the continuum of care all current services and support for Looked After Children in order to identify gaps in provision. Particular attention to be paid to gaps in provision in mental health services, services for those with complex needs, challenging behaviour and wellbeing services
  3. To undertake a review of disabled Looked After Children placements to assess current and future configuration and funding.
  4. To continue to secure best value prices from IFA and Residential providers and to capture potential savings
  5. To provide routine monitoring data to senior management with regards to placement activity
  6. To increase awareness of CSE and to ensure that providers have the appropriate systems in place to support children at risk of CSE.
  7. To complete an in-house fostering review and present options for moving forward
  8. To develop a quality and performance framework for supported accommodation providers
  9. To review the Medway Foundation Trust block contact in-conjunction with Medway Clinical Commissioning Group in order to inform current and future service configuration.
  10. To robustly monitor the performance of the LAC health team and provide feedback via the CCG when contractual agreements are breached.
  11. Support the implementation of the Emotional Wellbeing Strategy
  12. To review the effectiveness of the single point of access for LAC Health
  13. To work with the Virtual Head teacher to address identified barriers to educational achievement
  14. To work with Children in Care Services and the Virtual Head Teacher to ensure that children placed out of area are achieving their potential
  15. To ensure that the needs of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children inform the development and provision of future services
  16. To ensure that Medway feeds into the neuro-developmental pathway or ADHD and ASD being developed across Kent and that the needs of Medway Looked After Children informs the planning of new services

Key Contacts

Lorraine Foster–Programme Lead–Partnership Commissioning (Looked After Children) Lorraine.foster@medway.gov.uk