Part 3 - User and Carer Services

3.2 Children and Families

1. Achievements 2001- 2004 and Key Actions for 2004/05

What we have achieved through the Strategic Programme (2001-2004)

Actions to Improve Performance (2004 - 2005)

1. Ensuring stability of care for children whether at home or looked-after

  • Increased use of diversionary options through contracts with National Children's Homes and Devon Youth Association and increased use of Family Group Conferencing (FGC).
  • Developed role and process to set up an Independent Review Unit (IRU) with expanded numbers of reviewing officers.
  • Increased the number of specialist foster carers.
  • Developed a comprehensive Child and Adolescent Mental Health Strategy (CAMHS).
  • Recruit to and support new Child and Adolescent Mental Health posts based in the Joint Agency Teams to increase the availability of psychological support to children and their carers.
  • Establish a new contract to improve availability of specialist psychological support to foster carers and adoptive parents and those needing support after experiencing abuse.
  • Establish a new specialist and peripatetic support workers to help maintain placements of children with complex needs and for other looked-after children at times of crisis.

2. Ensuring children are protected from abuse

  • Worked with the Area Child Protection Committee to ensure consistency in child protection decision-making and to audit this against both Area Children Protection Committee (ACPC) and Climbié methodology and criteria.
  • Reviewed the work of the Joint Agency Child Abuse Team and planned further developments as recommended by the review.
  • Improved training and supervision of staff to ensure best practice in responding to child safeguarding needs.
  • Implemented phase 1 of CareFirst Information Management & Technology (IM&T) system to improve recording and monitoring of case details, activity and workloads.
  • Implement the recommendations of the Climbié Audit Action Plan, including changed Help Desk, assessment and recording procedures.
  • Monitor and consolidate the newly established Independent Review Unit to ensure it is meeting expectations and targets.
  • Develop new approaches to working with the risks presented by parents who have specialist needs and difficulties such as mental health, substance misuse, learning difficulties, families where there is evidence of domestic violence.
  • Develop new monitoring arrangements for children in private foster care and short stay independent settings such as language schools.
  • Consolidate training, system and paperwork improvements as part of the implementation of phase 2 of the 'CareFirst' Care Management System.

3. Promoting the educational, health and social care of children in need

  • Worked with Sure Start to develop a range of expanded Early Years opportunities across Devon.
  • Worked with schools and the Children's Fund to develop pastoral care co-ordinators to support primary age children with emotional difficulties.
  • Developed a joint commissioning process to support strategic planning arrangements between Health, Social Services and Education. This facilitated Devon's application for Pathfinder Children's Trust status.

Develop the Devon Children's Trust Pathfinder, including:

  • Improved identification, referral & tracking procedures, integrated assessment and targeted prevention work.
  • Consolidate the work of the Joint Agency Teams (JATs) to include mental health and better links with Education.
  • Support the implementation of the Children's National Service Framework (NSF.)
  • Strengthen staff skills development and training opportunities within early years provision.
  • Simplify and improve joint planning and commissioning arrangements between agencies working with vulnerable adolescents.

4. Promote educational, health & social care of Looked-after Children (LAC) enabling them to access sport, culture & leisure opportunities

  • Developed LAC-Education steering group to implement plans, including increased use of Personal Education Plans (PEPs) by schools and social workers, agreeing exclusion protocol and priority admissions procedure.
  • Set up celebrating achievement event to mark the educational achievements of Looked-after Children.
  • Launched the '4U2' computers and Children's Society website.
  • With PCTs, developed a LAC healthcare assessment process and named doctor arrangements.
  • Piloted access to sport for a small group of children in foster care.
  • Reduced the use of criminal action against LAC through joint working with police and Youth Offending Team (YOT) to encourage diversionary / restorative approaches to minor misdemeanours.
  • Implement the new joint protocol to reduce school exclusions of looked-after children.
  • With the Independent Review Unit develop a procedure for monitoring the use and effectiveness of Personal Education Plans.
  • Work with Education and Audit Commission to review the educational attainment of looked-after children and to implement the review findings.
  • Implement the new looked-after children health assessment process. Increase awareness of and responses to healthy living issues such as diet, smoking, substance misuse, sexual health and issues related to ethnic or genetic backgrounds.
  • Develop the celebrating achievements award to include achievements in sport and culture as well as education.
  • Expand the access to sport for children in foster care. Pilot access to other leisure pursuits, in particular music and creative arts.

5. Ensure that care leavers are not isolated and participate socially and economically as citizens

  • Established care leavers teams.
  • Worked to ensure that arrangements are in place to support care leavers being linked with Connexions by 16.
  • Developed a supported accommodation service for care leavers, to include access to lodgings and more independent options.
  • Simplified arrangements for care leavers to open and maintain bank accounts and receive their payments direct.
  • Increase the level of joint work with Connexions, colleges, housing and youth services to make sure that core needs of care leavers are being met.
  • Develop the use of Personal Advisors and Pathway Planning as a means to provide direct support to care leavers.
  • Provide services from easily accessible and non-stigmatised settings.
  • Improve the quality and availability of good quality information to support independence.
  • Increase the opportunities for care leavers to participate in service planning and development.

6. Ensure the needs of children with disability and their parents / carers are assessed and are supported in community settings

  • Worked with Health & the LEA on agreement to allow the implementation of integrated assessments.
  • Worked with parents to develop and pilot a direct payment scheme.
  • Set up an online information service for parents (DISC).
  • Improved IM&T systems and information sharing between Health, Education and Social Services to also enable access by parent/carer key workers.
  • Develop the work of the Children's Trust Pathfinder to strengthen the effectiveness of the Joint Agency Teams, particularly in relation to integrated assessments, lead key-worker roles, joint commissioning & shared budgets.
  • Further develop direct payments and parent / carer key working opportunities, including training and support.
  • Continue to expand DISC and other arrangements for providing information and assistance to parents / carers of disabled children.
  • Improve access to aids and equipment through increased joint purchasing arrangements.

7. Process, standards & workforce development

  • Developed contract with Children's Society to support representation, advocacy and greater participation by looked-after children and young people.
  • Set up arrangements for greater member involvement with young people and services.
  • Implemented National Framework for Assessment with appropriate training, support and monitoring arrangements.
  • Increased take up of CCA training through recruitment of additional cover staff from overseas.
  • Fully implement the SSI Inspection and Victoria Climbié Action Plans, the National Care Standards Commission (NCSC) inspection reports on fostering, residential and adoption services; the Audit Commission report on controlling costs for children with complex needs.
  • Build on the work of the Children's Trust Pathfinder and Children's Bill to enhance the existing workforce development strategy.
  • Strengthen arrangements for young people to participate in service improvement.
  • 2. Medium Term Strategy to 2008

  1. Staff recruitment, retention, skill mix and workforce development: Includes changes to salary progression, supervision, grades, working practices and broader staff mix as well as ongoing work to improve training and individual staff skills. To achieve a 1% efficiency saving through reduced sickness and absence cover, more flexible use of staff, e.g. through greater use of non-fieldwork social workers to manage stable cases, greater use of voluntary agency staff to provide early years key working and care leavers Personal Advisors.

  2. Behaviour Assessment and Support Services: To reduce demand for residential placements and support increased family care of children with complex needs. Divert funding from purchasing residential placements into development of specialist services to support children and young people in family settings, either through kinship or specialist foster care. Jointly with Education and Health develop locally based risk management processes, skills and services to include intensive community/family support, backed up by small purpose built residential assessment facility and enhancement of specialist foster care, therapeutic and crisis resolution provision and school support programmes. There is a significant linkage with the Local Education Authority Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties Programme and the comprehensive Child & Adolescent Mental Health (CAMH) Strategy.

  3. Reduce the number of children looked-after as a percentage of the population: Build on existing Public Service Agreement (PSA) work in Exeter and North Devon. Here increased diversionary work, particularly Family Group Conferencing and greater support to kinship carers, has reduced the number of children coming into care and the duration of care episodes. Develop more effective support services to parents with specific problems such as substance misuse or mental health difficulties to facilitate the expansion of Exeter and North Devon approaches across the rest of county. This should serve to reduce the number looked-after and accommodated children by 7% or approximately 47 fewer Looked-after Children and Care Leavers.

  4. Strengthen family support services, market management and contracting arrangements: To encourage greater stability and offer more support to family placement. This will also involve increased block contracting, negotiating annual efficiencies in Service Level Agreements (SLAs), better linkage with other prevention services and budgets (including pooling), more effective provision of supervised contact services.

  5. Active prevention approaches: The development of the Devon Children's Trust Pathfinder and increased joint working will target improved early identification and responses to needs among vulnerable children and families. e.g. Education, schools, the youth service, Connexions, Children's Fund, Sure Start, Health, Housing, criminal justice, voluntary agencies and other critical partnership arrangements (e.g. Domestic Violence.) This work will also involve developing shared strategic planning, commissioning and budget arrangements. Agencies working more effectively together to support families and successfully divert children and young people from more complex or problematic needs, will improve individual outcomes and reduce demand and cost pressure on Social Services.

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