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Topic on a Page - Looked After Children

Data Sources:

Looked After Children Supplementary Data Published: Dec 2017

Public Health England: Public Health Profiles

Data Profiles: Local Authority Interactive Tool

HM Government Statistics - National Statistics:

Statistics on children under local authority care at national and local authority level

Children looked after in England, including adoption

Supporting
Information:

HM Government Policy:

Resources: Looked After Children and Adoption

Local Government Association (LGA):

Resources: Looked After Children

The relationship between family violence and youth offending

National Children's Bureau:

Children in Care

Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE):

Looked After Children

Department for Education (DfE):

Applying corporate parenting principles to looked after children and care leavers: statutory guidance for local authorities

Changes to statutory guidance: Working Together to Safeguard Children; and new regulations: Government consultation response

Extending Personal Advisor support to all care leavers to age 25: statutory guidance for local authorities

Guidance on the corporate parenting principles, the local offer and extending Personal Advisor support to all care leavers to age 25: Government consultation response

Local offer for care leavers: statutory guidance

Promoting the education of looked after children and previously looked after children: statutory guidance for local authorities

Working together to safeguard children

Secure children’s homes: how to place a child aged under 13: updated guidance

National protocol on reducing criminalisation of looked-after children and care leavers

House of Commons Library Briefing Papers:

Troubled Families Programme (England)

Support for Care Leavers

NICE:

Child abuse and neglect [QS179] Published February 2019

What Works Centre for Children:

Children's Social Care: Better evidence to support better decisions: Dashboard of interventions

Linked Topics:

Topic last reviewed: Mar-18

JSNA Topic: Looked After Children

Background

Looked after children (LAC); are also referred to as children in care. In Lincolnshire there are approximately 1200 looked after children aged between 0 and 18. Of these children, 60% are from families living in Lincolnshire and the remaining 40% are placed in the county by other Local Authorities. A LAC is either accommodated on a voluntary basis or as a result of court action. They can be placed in foster care, with extended family members or friends or in Children's Homes. In certain circumstances a looked after child can also be placed with their parents. The largest cohort of looked after children fall into the age group 10-15 years Some are looked after for short periods and others require long term placements.

Most children are looked after as a result of neglectful parenting and will have experienced trauma in their lives. As a result, Looked After Children is a particularly vulnerable group and are at high risk of social exclusion, health inequalities, and poor educational attainment. Although many LAC do well across all of these areas, there is significant evidence that they do less well than their peers. The Annual Report by the Chief Medical Officer (Chapter 11, 2012) finds that nationally, LAC and care leavers are between four and five times more likely to self-harm in adulthood. They are at five- fold increased risk of all childhood mental health, emotional and behavioural problems, and looked after teenage girls are 2.5 times likely to become pregnant than other teenagers.

It is the responsibility of agencies involved with LAC to act as a Corporate Parent. The role of a Corporate Parent is to make decisions and provide services that enhance a looked after child's potential or simply to act as a good parent.

The numbers of LAC in England have continued to rise. There were 72,670 looked after children at 31 March 2017, an increase of 3% compared to 31 March 2016, and an increase of 7% compared to 2013. In Lincolnshire the numbers of children who are looked after per 10,000 of the population have remained significantly below the national average over the last 2 years, rising from 44 to 48 in Lincolnshire compared with 60 to 62 nationally. This currently represents around 680 children. (Source: Lincolnshire County Council: Business Plan Performance Report)

Context

National Strategies, Policies & Guidance

The focus of the NICE guidance [PH28] on Looked after Children and Young People issued in 2010, refreshed in 2015, is on how organisations, professionals and carers can work together to help looked-after children and young people reach their full potential and enjoy the same opportunities in life as their peers. The guidelines aim to:

  • Promote stable placements and nurturing relationships
  • Support the full range of placements, including with family and friends
  • Encourage educational achievement
  • Support the transition to independent living
  • Meet the particular needs of looked after children and young people, including those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, unaccompanied asylum seekers, and those who have disabilities
  • Places looked after children and young people at the heart of decision making.

In 2017, the Children and Social Work Act was introduced. This placed a fresh focus on the outcomes for Care Leavers and required Local Authorities to:

  • Produce a local offer for Care Leavers
  • Extend support to care Leavers to the age of 25
  • Ensure that the educational needs of children who were previously Looked After are promoted.

Other key guidance:

  • Promoting the Health and Well-being of Looked After Children (March 2015)
  • Promoting the Education of Looked After Children (July 2014).
  • Transition from children’s to adults’ services for young people using health or social care services NICE Guideline [NG43] (February 2016)
  • Children and Social Work Act 2017
  • Local Strategies & Plans

    The vision and ambition for children in Lincolnshire is "Putting Children First." Children and Families will be:

    • Helped to make changes for themselves
    • Seen as a positive solution to the challenges they face
    • Able to get the right service at the right time
    • Understood as a whole family.

    Supported by a workforce who:

    • Uses evidenced informed practice
    • Understands and applies relationship based practice
    • Is restorative in approach
    • Is well trained and supported.

    Enabled and equipped by clear governance that puts children and families at the heart of how we plan and deliver support for them.

    The Looked After Children Strategy was updated in 2017 prior to a full rewrite in 2018.

    The rate of Looked after Children is a key performance indicator in Lincolnshire County Council's Business Plan.

    What is the picture in Lincolnshire?

    What the data is telling us

    The number of LAC in Lincolnshire has remained static in 2017 at 680 in October. It remains below neighbouring and statistical neighbour averages. Based on the number of looked after children per 10,000 of the population, Lincolnshire has 48 LAC per 10,000 at March 2017 compared with a statistical neighbour average of 54.7 and a national average of 62.0.

    Data source: Looked After Children Statutory Return 2016/17.

    Profile of LAC

    • 55% (382) of looked after children in Lincolnshire are male and 45% (311) female.
    • The age breakdown of looked after children in Lincolnshire shows that in 2016/17:
      • 21% are aged between 0-4
      • 20% are aged between 5-9
      • 36% are aged between 10-15
      • 23% are aged 16 and over
    • 11.5% of looked after children are from ethnic minority groups, i.e. other than White British.

    Placements
    The stability of placements for looked after children can vary by child but looked after children in Lincolnshire are less likely to have three or more placements in a year than looked after children nationally, i.e. just 4.2% of looked after children in Lincolnshire at March 2017 had three or more placements in the previous 12 months compared to 10.3% nationally.

    The high percentage of children looked after aged under 5 also suggests that Lincolnshire intervenes appropriately to safeguard children and formulate long term plans for them. For these children, the Authority places high emphasis on maintaining them within wider family networks called kinship placements and such placements account for 19% of all children looked after. For the small group of children where this is not considered to be a suitable option, adoption plans are made and Lincolnshire is one of the few authorities with an outstanding grade for its adoption service (OFSTED Inspection 2014).

    Adolescents are the other large group and present different challenges as they enter care usually at a point of trauma and often require a range of additional support services to address health, education and social needs.

    80% of Looked After Children are placed in Lincolnshire with Foster carers. 10 children are placed with Independent Foster carers. Recruitment of foster carers is targeted on the groups of children most in need of placement; adolescents, children involved in criminality and placements for parents with their children. This year has also seen a dramatic increase in the number of children placed with extended family members under kinship arrangements. Lincolnshire continues to have a low number of children looked after outside of its boundaries and this enables good, local multi agency interventions to be offered to individual children.

    Educational Attainment
    Unvalidated local data that of their non-Looked After peers at Key Stage 4. As of indicates the educational attainment of Looked After Children in Lincolnshire remained below January 2018, no validated comparative data is available to inform this report as the DfE has not yet released national data relating to 2017 Key Stage 4 outcomes for Children in Care.

    Health outcomes
    Health services in the County provide a dedicated provision to vulnerable children amongst who are Looked After Children and care leavers. LAC receive regular health assessments and these provide a good overview of the health needs of individual children. Data for 2015/16 shows that:

    • 98.4% of Lincolnshire LAC were up to date with immunisations compared to 87.6% in England
    • 98% of Lincolnshire LAC had an up to date Dental Check compared to 84.1% in England
    • 93% of Lincolnshire LAC had an up to date Health Assessment compared to 90% in England.

    Lincolnshire is performing well above the national average for all health checks for LAC. The number of children that have not received their health checks in timescale is below 20 children in all checks.

    Emotional stability is measured by the use of the SDQ (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire) and services to improve emotional wellbeing are offered to individual children who score high on this measure. Since 2015 data has been provided to better understand the trends in health needs of this group of children and has identified that looked after children have better levels of assessment, immunisation and dental oversight than their peers in the community. Although Looked After Children have the same health risks as their peers, the extent is often exacerbated due to their previous experiences. Looked After Children show significantly higher rates of: mental health issues; emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression; hyperactivity and autistic spectrum disorder conditions. This is particularly the case for children placed in Lincolnshire by other Local Authorities. As the data becomes richer, a more accurate understanding of the health needs of this group will emerge and enable better targeting of resources to address these needs.

    Care Leavers
    The leaving care service is delivered via a contract with Barnardo's and provides a service to 285 care leavers. Lincolnshire provides the opportunity for young people leaving care to remain in their foster placements up until the age of 21 years via the Staying Put scheme and as at October 2017 there were 30 young people in such placements. In 2016/17, 89% of care leavers in Lincolnshire were living in suitable accommodation in comparison to 84% nationally and 87% for our statistical neighbours.

    Lincolnshire care leavers that are in suitable Education, Employment and Training (EET) stands at 55% compared to a national average of 50%.

    Further information is available in the Supplementary Data Document.

    Trend

    The rate of Looked After Children has been steadily increasing since 2011 and this is following both the national and regional trend.

    Further information is available in the Supplementary Data Document.

    Key Inequalities

    Standards of achievement at GCSE are not high enough when measured against the non LAC cohort nationally, but as the most recent Ofsted Social Care Annual Report pointed out: “These are children whose childhoods have not been like most other children’s... It tells us little to only compare this group of children with children whose lives have been happy and secure.”

    Evidence shows that Care leavers share many of the same health risks and problems as their peers but often to a greater degree. They have often endured greater challenges within their own families with physical, emotional and psychological difficulties in their lives. As outlined in the NICE Quality Standards for the Health and Wellbeing of Looked After Children and Care Leavers [QS31] (2013). Care leavers are vulnerable to a range of poor health outcomes and inequalities in accessing services and often enter the care system with a worse level of health than their peers (No health without mental health, February 2011).

    Young people who have been in care can be particularly vulnerable as they transition into adulthood, particularly if they are in the criminal justice system. They are also a particularly vulnerable group that are at risk of being drawn into crime. Equally we know care leavers can be particularly vulnerable to becoming a victim of crime, including in some cases falling victim to grooming and exploitation online or offline.

    Looked After status is conferred upon any young person aged under -18 who is remanded by the courts and those under 18 who are homeless and deemed to be vulnerable. These are often young people with few family supports who require high levels of resource from all agencies.

    Current Activity & Services

    Recruitment of foster carers is a key priority and targets the groups of children most in need. Looked after children in Lincolnshire are provided with a designated teacher, have access to additional educational resources via the pupil premium and access to the Virtual School.

    Children placed in Lincolnshire reside within kinship, independent fostering and private residential care homes. All Looked After Children in the County have access to a dedicated group of nurses and a designated Doctor for Looked After Children. They also receive priority assessments of need by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).

    Education is crucial to improved life chances for LAC and the Authority employs a Virtual School to best ensure that looked after children are supported and challenged to meet their individual potential. Progress has been made in terms of "narrowing gaps" particularly in the Early Years and primary phases. Progress has also been made in the key areas of partnership working, professional development, championing the individual needs of all Looked After Children and the building of strong resilient partnerships between the Virtual School, real schools and other partners.

    Achieving consistently high and improving achievement of the review health assessments, and reduction to less than 2% refusals, especially with older teenagers, demonstrates the quality of the health assessment process and the commitment and partnership working between health and social care practitioners. Lincolnshire continues to be one of the highest performing authorities in relation to completed health assessments and registration with dentists and GP's. An improving picture within this reporting timeframe is with regard to teenage looked after children uptake of booster vaccination programs directly related to increased promotion during health assessments undertaken by specialist nurses. Health information is collated which enables the authority to profile the health needs of looked after children better helping the targeting of future resources.

    In addition, the Authority commissions additional services for looked after children including an independent visitor scheme, advocacy, and drug and alcohol services.

    Unmet Needs & Gaps

    Adolescents enter care as a result of some personal trauma. This means that they are likely to present a range of behavioural challenges for carers. There are insufficient suitable foster, residential and independent accommodation options to ensure that the first placement is the right placement. Some will as a result experience placement instability.

    Recruitment of foster carers for this group is also difficult with fewer carers coming forward than required. Foster carer recruitment is variable across the County with better response in the more rural areas. South Kesteven is an area where foster carers for adolescents are in short supply. As a result some adolescents are placed outside of the County in specialist foster care or residential placements.

    Local Views & Insights

    There is a well-established council for Looked After Children and Care Leavers called Voices for Choices (V4C). Four groups contribute to the local authority’s 'Big Conversation' programme, which brings together; young people, elected members and managers from children’s services and Barnardo’s Leaving Care Service to develop and improve the services that children and young people receive. Young people present have a clear role in participating in and influencing service delivery to support other Looked After Children and young people. V4C contribute to Social Worker training and Foster Carer recruitment events. They worked with other Looked After Children councils in the East Midlands as part of the commissioning process for private residential and foster care. They have recently redesigned their pathway plan and review forms, and will be contributing to Foster Carer training.

    Feedback from young people has also identified the need to improve the planning process for Looked After Children transitioning into leaving care. Young people have assisted in the development of Skills for Independent Living book and will be involved in work to improve the pathway to independence.

    Risks of not doing something

    An identified priority for the Council is to ensure that children are safe and supported to achieve their full potential. Services are offered to families in order to enable them to care appropriately for their children. Children only become Looked After when the wellbeing of a child is compromised. The social and financial costs associated with increased numbers of LAC are very significant. Placements costs for LAC can run into many thousands of pounds per week and can impact on Local Authority and health budgets.

    The Annual Report by the Chief Medical Officer (2012): Our Children Deserve Better: Prevention Pays shows that around 13% of children remain in the care system for more than five years. The cost of a Lincolnshire foster care placement in county is £382, and the cost of living in a Lincolnshire children's home in county is £2,346 per week. Both are considerably less than the comparative costs across the Country.

    Lincolnshire County Council has a moral and statutory “Corporate Parent” responsibility for LAC. There is a social, reputational and legal risk if we do not fulfil these responsibilities.

    What is coming on the horizon?

    In July 2016, the Government issued two strategies "Putting Children First" and "Keep on Caring". These lead to the enactment of the Children and Social Work Act 2017 which has put an extended emphasis on the importance of corporate parenting and extended the offer to Care Leavers. Local authorities will be required to publish their support offer to care leavers and to promote educational attainment of children who have been adopted or placed in long-term arrangements.

    The legislation also extends the current considerations of the court when making decisions about the long-term placement of children to include an assessment of current and future needs and of any relationship with the prospective adopter.

    What should we be doing next?

    • Improved transition into leaving care service
    • Develop a multi-agency support service to reduce the number of young people becoming looked after post 16
    • Improve the recruitment and retention of foster carers
    • Introduce the social pedagogy approach to all residential homes and identify opportunities to extend this to working with foster carers
    • Develop and train all staff in the use of restorative practice.

     

    If you need to contact us about this topic, please email JSNA@lincolnshire.gov.uk

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