Children in Care

Children in Care

Introduction

This section focuses on children who are being 'looked after' by the Local Authority, otherwise known as Children in Care.

 

We recognise the need to ensure that children in care and care leavers have access to a wider network of support therefore we work operationally and strategically with a range of partner agencies. These include partners across the health service, education, social care, youth services, the police, probation, local businesses, and the voluntary, community and faith sector. Through various statutory Boards, the Director of Children’s Services and Lead Member for Children’s Services have a responsibility for securing the commitment of partner agencies.

 

Every child within the borough needs to be given the best start in life and be afforded the same possibilities. For this reason the following 6 key areas of concern have been identified within Wokingham Children’s Services Commissioning Strategy 2015-2018 and the Early Help and Innovation Working Together: Transforming Services Strategy.

 

1.    Social isolation, deprivation and intergenerational poverty

2.    Increased usage of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), long waiting lists and uncertain mental health outcomes

3.    More children in need and children eligible for free schools meals with special educational needs

4.    Too many children in care entering the system in adolescence

5.    Disadvantage starts early  

6.    Our system does not always effectively hold children who need support

 

These areas of need are very broad and have many complex and varying factors underneath them.  They affect the way in which we commission services, deliver services and prioritise need. These will not only be affected by health factors and strategies targeted at Children in Care, it will cross over and incorporate a wide number of factors that affect the development, health and wellbeing of all children within the borough, and in particular the factors that affect Children In Need.

 

This section of the JSNA cannot be read in isolation and further reading needs to be carried out around both adult and children’s mental health, drug use, alcohol issues, and domestic abuse to name a few. 

 

In partnership with children and young people in care and care leavers, we have developed and adopted a Care Leavers Charter and a Pledge for Children in Care. The pledges represent our commitments and promises of the things we will do. These are outlined later within this strategy. 

Rate of Looked After Children versus IDACI

In UK law children in care are referred to as ‘looked after children’. A child is ‘looked after’ if they are in the care of the local authority for more than 24 hours: i.e. the Authority is acting as corporate parent for the child.

Legally, this could be when they are:

  • Living in accommodation provided by the local authority with the parents’ agreement

  • The subject of an interim or full care order

  • The subject of an emergency legal order to remove them from immediate danger

  • Serving time in a secure children’s home, secure training centre or young offender institution

  • Unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC)

Read the Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations on the Gov.uk website.

 

Headline data

  • We were the corporate parent to 74 children in our care and 38 care leavers on 31 March 2015

  • We continue to care for significantly fewer children per 10,000 resident children than our statistical neighbours, the South East region or England - there is no evidence that this is the ‘wrong rate for Wokingham’

  • We have significantly more boys than girls in our care aged 10 or more

  • The increase in the number of children subject to care orders in 2013 (2012 was 8) has been maintained

  • Children subject to section 20 / voluntary care arrangements have remained steady over 3 to 4 years

  • Adoption rates are low

The number of children in care in Wokingham has remained relatively stable for the past few years with the highest number being 86 as at March 2013, and the lowest being 72 as at March 2012. As at March 2015 we have 74 children in our care and 38 care leavers aged under 21.

 

Historic information on the rate of children in care in Wokingham shows:

 

Children in Care rate per 10,000

 

CiC rate per 10,000 children

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Wokingham

21.0

20.0

24.0

20.0

20.0

For SE Region

46.0

47.0

47.0

48.0

49.0

Statistical neighbours

37.9

37.8

37.9

39.4

39.5

England

58.0

59.0

60.0

60.0

60.0

 

 

It is probable that many of Wokingham’s related statistics will be different to that of a typical authority, due to our low rate of children in care.

 

Our last Ofsted inspection, in November 2015, did not generate any actions regarding our low rate of children in care, although the age profile and gender of the children were raised as issues.

 

Recently, research in the South East Region has suggested that low numbers of looked after LAC children are linked to low levels of deprivation by graphing the rate of Children in Care against IDACI (an index of child deprivation provided by the Department for Education) and comparing against a trend line. However, there is no nationally agreed evidence of this relationship.

 

Children in Care graphs

Wokingham has noticeably reduced the number of younger children in care recently, but the number of children aged over 10 is rising, with children aged 10-15 now comprising over half our children in care.

 

The above graph shows the time children have spent in care, matched to their age as at March 2015 – the colour change shows when they came into care.

 

Ethnicity profile 

The ethnic breakdown of our children in care on the 31 March each year is shown below with a more recent update for June 2015.

 

Ethnicity of Children in Care

 

March 2013

March 2014

March 2015

June 2015

June 2015 %

White

69

63

61

57

83.8%

Mixed

8

6

4

4

5.9%

Asian or Asian British

5

4

6

3

4.4%

Black or Black British

1

0

0

1

1.5%

Other ethnic groups

3

2

3

3

4.4%

Total

86

75

74

68

 

 

Viewed over a period of time, to allow for the low numbers involved, this profile reflects the mix of children in our schools with no ethnic group being over or under represented.

 

Gender profile

National data shows a mix of around 55 percent boys and 45 percent girls, yet Wokingham’s data continues to have boys slightly over-represented in the mix of children in care (59 percent boys and 41 percent girls in June 2015.)

 

 

Children in Care

March 2013

March 2014

March 2015

June 2015

National March  2015

Boys

Girls

Boys

Girls

Boys

Girls

Boys

Girls

Total

Under 1

1

3

0

2

2

1

1

2

4.4%

5%

Aged 1 - 4

9

4

10

3

1

3

1

2

4.4%

15%

Aged 5 – 9

6

9

3

3

2

6

1

4

7.4%

21%

Aged 10 - 15

22

11

23

15

27

16

21

16

54.5%

38%

Aged 16-17

13

8

12

4

13

3

17

4

30.9%

22%

Aged 18+

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0.0%

0

Total

51

35

48

27

45

29

40

28

100%

100%

Grand Total

86

75

74

68

 

 

 

 

This table also shows how the numbers of younger children in care have fallen significantly in recent years, especially for boys aged 1 to 4. In March 2014 we had 10 boys of this age-group in care, yet a year later (March 2015) we only had 1boy of this age-group in care.

 

In order to understand this fall, we studied the reasons for leaving care for this cohort of 10 children. This showed:

  • 2 children returned to their parents

  • 4 were adopted from care

  • 4 have either a Child Arrangement Order or a Special Guardianship Order to live with relatives

There were none remaining in care by March 2015.

 

Younger children typically stay in care for a shorter period of time, as they frequently move on to live within the extended family.

 

A study is underway to investigate the impact of any changes in practice around younger children. It has been suggested that the implementation of the Early Help Hub 'front door' and 'Signs of Safety' working practices might have led to more cases for younger children being worked with in a supportive way by other services, rather than approaching all cases from a more formal Child Protection viewpoint. The results of this study will be reported on in the next update to the JSNA.

 

How many of our children have Special Educational Needs?

It can be seen that a higher proportion of Wokingham’s Children in Care cohort have special educational needs than in most other authorities; again this will impact on any comparisons of performance or activity between authorities. This is a reflection of the mix of children in care and is around legalities of children in respite care. Wokingham as a whole has a similar proportion of children with special educational needs.

 

Percentage of Children in Care with Special Educational Needs

 

% of CiC with a statement of educational needs

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Wokingham

50.0%

54.8%

44.8%

53.7%

40.7%

SE Region

31.0%

31.8%

30.0%

31.3%

Not released

Statistical neighbours

33.2%

34.5%

33.3%

32.6%

Not released

England

28.2%

29.4%

28.5%

29.0%

Not released

 

In 2014 70.1 percent of our children with a statement had Behavioural, Emotional and Social issues recorded as the main presenting issue.

 

Children in Care living within 20 miles of their home

This is an area where the data is presented in different ways by different national bodies, so there is potential for confusion. The ONS, who monitor the production of Department for Education statistics, provide the most reliable data. For March 2015 this shows:

 

Children living in Care within 20 miles of their home

 

 

Wokingham

2015

SE Region

2015

England

2015

20 miles or less

 

70%

69%

77%

Inside LA Boundary

31%

54%

54%

Outside LA Boundary

39%

15%

23%

 

Over 20 miles

 

27%

22%

18%

Inside LA Boundary

0%

6%

4%

Outside LA Boundary

27%

16%

14%

 

Unknown *

 

3%

9%

6%

 

*Please note that 'unknown' covers children living outside England, UASC and children missing from their placements. The 3 percent unknown in Wokingham at the end of March 2015 were 2 UASC.

 

Looking at this data, the Wokingham percentage of children placed more than 20 miles from home is five percentage points higher than the South East average; probably an issue caused by our low numbers of 'unknowns' and the small number of looked after children from Wokingham.

 

If we look at the number of looked after children LAC living within Berkshire at the end of July 2015, 40 children live within Berkshire (58 percent) and 29 live outside of Berkshire (42 percent.)  Of the 29 that live outside of Berkshire, 9 were in specialised residential accommodation due to their Special Education Needs (31 percent of those living outside Berkshire.)

 

Wokingham does, however, have a challenge as more of its children live outside the local authority boundary, making it harder to have an impact on their education and access to facilities. This is particularly relevant as the Department for Education also publishes a linked statistic:

 

Looked After Children living in Wokingham 2014

All Looked After Children living in Wokingham March 2014

Children in the care of Wokingham

Children in the care of other local authorities

Net flow of children in care

25

70

55

 

The data published in Local Authority Interactive Tool LAIT focuses on children in residential care, as these are believed to be at higher risk of harm.

Children in residential care placed more than 20 miles from home as at March 2014:

  • Wokingham: 61.5 percent

  • Statistical neighbours: 42.5 percent

  • South East region: 47.5 percent

  • England: 37.1 percent

 

This data excludes children in fostering placements over 20 miles from their home and is believed to be published to inform recent Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) findings about the risks for children living in residential care far from their home.

Accommodation

For published 2014/15 data Wokingham is shown as having 92 percent of its care leavers in suitable accommodation, compared to 84.6 percent for our statistical neighbours and the English average of 81 percent. In 2013/14 Wokingham’s result was poor, as many of the cohort being monitored were no longer in contact with Children’s Services and therefore the data was reported as not obtained. This is a big improvement on last year, mainly because we are now regularly in touch with many more of our care leavers.

 

Data for June 2015 shows 93.75 percent of all Care Leavers were in suitable accommodation.

 

Care Leavers in accommodation

Age

Suitable

Unsuitable

Info not obtained - not in touch/ YP refused/ returned home

Qualifying - no active involvement*

Total

17

1

 0

 0

1

2

18

6

0

1

1

8

19

11

0

0

0

11

20

11

2

0

3

16

Total

29

2

1

5

37

 

*Qualifying children have the right to care leavers’ services, but are not treated as care leavers having returned home to live with their parents before the age of 18. They are not included in any care leavers’ statistics by the Department for Education.

 

Activity status

Published 2013/14 data shows Wokingham had 34 percent of Care Leavers in education, employment or training, compared to 45 percent for our statistical neighbours and the English average. This also showed 20 percent as not being in education, employment or training, compared to 41 percent for our statistical neighbours and 38 percent for the English average.

 

Wokingham’s result for 2013/14 was adversely affected by many of the cohort being monitored no longer remaining in contact with us, around 40 percent of them. Nationally the 'not in touch' cohort was closer to 15 percent.

 

Now we are in more regular contact with our care leavers, Wokingham’s unpublished data for 2014 to 2015 shows 59 percent of Care Leavers aged 19 to 21 as being in Education, Employment or Training.

 

As at June 2015, out of 37 Care Leavers aged below 21, 18 (49 percent) are currently in employment, education or training. However 13 (35 percent) are not in employment, education or training and another 6 (16 percent) have unknown status. Work is being done with these young people to establish better education and training outcomes for the coming academic year.

National guidance on working to support Looked After Children is available on the Gov.uk website. This site links to specific guidance about adoption, fostering, education, children with disabilities, homeless teenagers and care leavers, amongst more detailed guidance.

 

Meeting the health needs of Children in Care in Wokingham is directed by key policy frameworks that inform Local Authorities, and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to ensure shared responsibility for good outcomes

 

  • Every Child Matters (DCFS 2003)

  • Common Assessment Framework (2006)

  • The Child Health Strategy (DH2009)

  • Every Child Matters – Transforming the Lives of Children and Young People in Care (DfE S2006)

  • Promoting the Health of Looked After Children (DH2009)

  • The NHS Operating Framework – Vital Signs (NHS2008)

  • Our Health, Our Care, Our Say (DH2006)

  • Every Parent Matters (DCFS 2007)

  • Working Together to Safeguard Children (DCSF 2013)

  • A Guide to the Development of Children’s Palliative Care Services (DH 2005)

  • Better Care, Better Lives (DH 2008)

  • Care Matters: Time for Change (DCFS 2007)

  • Statutory Guidance on promoting the Health and Wellbeing of Looked After Children (DCFS 2009)

  • Promoting the quality of life for looked-after children and young people (NICE public health guidance, 2010)

  • NHS Operating Framework for the NHS in England 2012-13

 

The legislative and regulatory framework includes

  • The Care Standards Act (2000)

  • The Children Act (1989, 2004)

  • The Mental Health Act (2007)

  • The Children and Young Persons Act (2008)

 

Local strategies

Locally there are a number of key plans and strategies that ensure the overarching duty to promote and safeguard children and young people is embedded into key priorities.

 

The current strategies are currently being implemented to support children in care within the borough.

 

  • Wokingham Children’s Services Commissioning Strategy 2015-2018

  • Domestic Abuse Strategy

  • Children and Young People’s Social and Emotional Wellbeing, Wokingham

  • Early Help and Innovations Strategy

  • Young People’s Housing Strategy

  • Children and Young People’s Plan

  • Sufficiency Strategy

  • Drug and Alcohol Treatment Plan

  • Corporate Parenting Strategy

  • Workforce Strategy

  • Engagement Strategy

  • Education of Looked After Children Strategy

  • Child Sexual Exploitation Strategy

  • Commissioning Strategy 

 

Wokingham Safeguarding Children Board (WSCB)  

 

The Wokingham Safeguarding Children Board (WSCB) ensures it is able to deliver its statutory responsibilities by:

 

  • Monitoring how well statutory agencies are carrying out their responsibility under section 11 of the Children Act 2004 to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, including their safe staffing arrangements

  • Setting up and running a programme of multi-agency safeguarding training 

  • Drawing up and monitoring the implementation of WSCB inter-agency procedures 

  • Undertaking a Serious Case Review (SCR) when a child dies, and abuse or neglect is known or suspected to be a factor in the death; the purpose of SCRs is to establish the lessons to be learned from the case and how they will be acted upon, and as a consequence, improve inter-agency safeguarding of children 

  • Taking an overview of all child deaths (under 18 years) in the area, identifying any potentially contributory recurrent themes, circumstances, or possible limitations in service provision by one or more agencies.

 

Visit the Wokingham Safeguarding Children Board website for more details. 

Children and young people who are in care are amongst the most socially excluded groups in England and Wales. They have profound increased health needs, particularly mental health, in comparison with children and young people from comparable socio-economic backgrounds who have not needed to be taken into care. However, these greater needs often remain unmet. As a result, many children and young people who are looked after experience significant health inequalities and on leaving care experience very poor health, educational and social outcomes. They show higher levels of substance misuse, higher rates of teenage pregnancy and a much greater prevalence of mental health problems.

 

National research highlights the mental health needs of many children in care, and Wokingham is no exception. There needs to be close working between the local authority and all levels of CAMHS provision. Wokingham is working to provide more holistic health support for its children in care, through the use of pathway and education planning, including access to sporting activities, sexual health advice and other community based services.

  • Reduce the number of children becoming looked after, through early intervention and support for families

  • Reduce the number of residential placements and in particular reduce the number of placements more than 20 miles from the child’s home

  • Improve permanency of placements and the stability of the social workforce in order to offer a consistent and longer term relationship for our children looked after

  • Improve recruitment and retention of in-house foster carers to increase capacity and choice of in-house placements, reduce out of area placements and improve availability of foster care for all children looked after

 

Recommendations for consideration by other key organisations such as CCG’s, General Practices, Local Authority departments e.g. housing and other providers.