Nottingham Insight

Children in care (2013)

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Topic title Children in care
Current version 2013

Executive summary

Introduction

This chapter focuses on those children in the care of Nottingham City Council, and for whom Nottingham City Council is the Corporate Parent. This chapter looks at children in care (CiC) and their identified needs, and examines the challenges these needs pose for Nottingham City Council as Corporate Parent.

The chapter details the characteristics of children in care, placement types and outcomes. It also identifies key challenges and how these impact on commissioning arrangements/requirements of local authorities for the future.

The Government wants every child in care to grow up safe, happy, healthy, secure and loved (DfE children in care article). This is the only way they will be able to fulfill their potential, and for those looked after by a Corporate Parent, it is the collective responsibility of those involved with corporate parenting to ensure this happens.

The CiC population presents a particular challenge to the council in the amount of resources in budget and staff time that are required to ensure we are fulfilling our duties of Corporate Parent. The increase in CiC in recent years has led to an associated overspend on placement budgets of 3.3million in 2010/11 putting financial pressure on the council.

Nationally at any one time 60,000 children are looked after by the local authority, 59% of whom are subject to care orders. In any one year 90,000 children in England are looked after (DfE children in care article).

A “looked-after child” includes children accommodated under a care order, those accommodated on a voluntary basis with the agreement of parents or the child if they are over 16, children placed away from home under an emergency protection order and children on police protection/remand/detention.

The majority of children are in care due to abuse or neglect, and this is also true within Nottingham, with 64% of Nottingham’s CiC population entering care as a result of abuse or neglect (Nottingham CiC analysis 2012).

For some children and young people, entering care becomes the only option to ensure they are safe. In these cases we must ensure the right placements are available, that they provide positive outcomes for the CiC, and they represent good value for money.

It has been made clear by the Prime Minister that improving the lives of children in care is a national priority, and that the adoption process needs to work more efficiently and effectively to enable faster adoption for children in care where appropriate (DfE children in care page).

There is much evidence to suggest that the life chances of children in care are less promising than those of children who do not live in the care system. In spite of numerous government initiatives the gap between these children and their peers still remains in relation to education, offending, health and substance misuse.

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.
  • Relevant recommendations for children in care included:
    • Giving professionals greater freedom from central prescription
    • Allowing help to be provided based on assessed need;
  • 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 (Source: NCC Insight & Analysis Team Oct 2011), 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 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
  • 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”.

 

Key contacts

Paulette Thompson-Omenka, Head of Children in Care, Nottingham City Council, paulette.thompson-omenka@nottinghamcity.gov.uk

Sharon Clarke, Service Manager Children in Care, Nottingham City Council, Sharon.clarke@nottinghamcity.gov.uk
Grace Brough, Insight Officer, Quality and Commissioning, Nottingham City Council,
grace.brough@nottinghamcity.gov.uk

Yu-Ling Liu-Smith, Insight Analyst, Quality and Commissioning, Nottingham City Council, yu-ling.liu-smith@nottinghamcity.gov.uk

Anthony Chesters, Performance and Monitoring Officer, Quality and Commissioning, Nottingham City Council, Anthony.chesters@nottinghamcity.gov.uk

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