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Looked-after children deserve more stability

Posted on 2/12/2016 by


Looked-after children deserve more stability

In Scotland, where there are about 15,000 looked-after children (including looked-after children at home), we are committed to ending unacceptably long waiting times for a permanent home as experienced by so many children (Safety in numbers, 26 November).

Delaying decisions on a child’s permanent home can seriously impact on their life chances. While speed is of the essence, we need to be considered in our decision making, using all evidence available, and ensuring the child’s welfare is considered at every step.

Where in England “permanence” normally means fostering or adoption (ie, care outside the family home), in Scotland the definition and options are far broader: returning the child to the family home with an appropriate level of care and support; kinship care, where the child lives with another family member; adoption and fostering; and residential care.

We believe that once families have had support to care for their child at home and are unable to do so, every child should be provided with a settled, secure and permanent place to live with minimum disruption to their young lives.

We are working with the Scottish government on the Permanence and Care Excellence (Pace) programme, aimed at developing innovative and rigorous approaches to improve permanence for looked-after children. In Aberdeenshire, the permanence process has almost halved in time, which has exceeded the original aim – hence why the programme is now being rolled out to every local authority in Scotland.
Jennifer Davidson
Executive director, Celcis (Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland)

 I work with under-18s presenting in mental health crisis. In many cases these children and young people are unsafe as opposed to mentally ill. Along with colleagues in child health and education, I often struggle to get a child or young person registered as a “child in need” let alone put on the child protection register. Removal is rare.

I have worked with many local authority children’s services over the last 20 years. Some have been really thoughtful and highly effective in their safeguarding practice. Others have been organised by the need to get child protection registration numbers down, and the need to save money. Under-18s in their authorities have frequently been subject to practices that simply repeat the abuse and neglect of their family of origin.

Emotional maltreatment is often invisible, and is all too frequently deemed insufficiently risky for action. Authorities keen to manage care within the wider family system (the aim with family group conferences, which are not, as implied in the article, a new intervention) often choose cost-neutral interventions, such as special guardianship orders. The final irony, with such orders, is that care may well be given over to the same grandparent who was the progenitor of the child’s abusive or neglectful parent.
Dr Virginia Davies
Consultant in paediatric liaison/under-18s mental health

 A financial crisis every bit as large as the one affecting adult social care is being faced by children’s homes. Incomes flatline, costs rise (Letters, 30 November). One region has not paid an increase on fees for this year, others make arrangements that incur delays, meanwhile providers carry on caring.

That children’s homes have become invisible is a testimony that good-quality care isn’t newsworthy. This means stories that could outshine past concerns are not publicly prominent.

The prominence for elderly care is just. A new positive prominence for children’s homes would be equally just. We already have the smallest sector in history so the loss of even a small number of providers will be to seriously affect safety, specialism and choice.
Jonathan Stanley
CEO, Independent Children’s Homes Association

Source: The Guardian