SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter provides the context for all procedures.
It contains the overarching policy for the provision of services to children and families. It also sets out underlying values and principles for recording, confidentiality and consultation.
WEST BERKSHIRE GUIDANCE AND STRATEGIES
Please see: Practice Guidance.
In October 2018, a new Section 2, Corporate Parenting was added in response to the DfE, Applying Corporate Parenting Principles to Looked-after Children and Care Leavers – Statutory Guidance (Feb 2018). It includes the seven corporate parenting principles set out in the guidance.
West Berkshire is a great place for children to grow up. Generally West Berkshire's children and young people do well. Our aim is for those children to be safe and healthy, achieve high educational standards through attending good schools, and move on into higher education or employment and a secure and prosperous future.
Our vision is for our most vulnerable children, including those Looked After by the local authority, to achieve outcomes that are every bit as good as their peers across all areas of their lives.
We understand children in the context of their families and communities and we prioritise supporting vulnerable families and working with communities so that their children can do well and be safe within their own family whenever possible.
Where children and young people can't remain with their birth or extended families, despite high quality family support, and are Looked After by the local authority, we want them to know that we are ambitious, driven and committed "Corporate Parents", striving to help them reach their full potential. For these children and young people we prioritise finding the best permanent home for them, so that they can have a stable base from which to build a secure future; and supporting them, while in our care, to be safe, stay healthy and achieve academically and otherwise.The vision for children and family services in West Berkshire is of a service that is, at the very least, "good", if not outstanding. To achieve this we will build on the existing strengths and on the principles already established in the Brilliant West Berkshire programme.
This policy sets out the framework within which Children's Services work with children, young people and their families. It is underpinned by a range of legislation including, but not limited to:
- Children Acts 1989 and 2004;
- Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000;
- Care Standards Act 2000;
- United Nations Convention on the Rights of The Child;
- Human Rights Act 1998;
- Adoption and Children Act 2002;
- Data Protection Legislation;
- Children and Families Act 2014;
- Children and Social Work Act 2017.
The policy framework also has regard to and is consistent with a range of government guidance, particularly the principles set out in Working Together to Safeguard Children.
It is largely directed towards the work that Children and Family Services undertakes with Children in Need and Looked After Children; which is carried out in partnership with all sectors of the Local Authority and with other statutory, independent and voluntary sector services.
2. Corporate Parenting
2.1 Corporate Parenting Responsibilities
The role that councils play in looking after children is one of the most important things they do. Local authorities have a unique responsibility to the children they look after and their care leavers.
The term 'corporate parent' is broadly understood by Directors of Children's Services and Lead Members for Children, as well as those working directly in Children's Services, in relation to how local authorities should approach their responsibilities for looked after children and care leavers. A strong ethos of corporate parenting means that sense of vision and responsibility towards the children they look after and their care leavers is a priority for everyone. Corporate Parenting is an important part of the Ofsted inspection framework and the Corporate Parenting Principles are referenced in Ofsted's Inspecting Local Authority Children's Services.
The Corporate Parenting Principles are intended to facilitate as far as possible secure, nurturing, and positive experiences for looked after children and young people and enable positive outcomes for them.
The experiences of looked-after children and care leavers, particularly in regards to whether they feel cared for and listened to, will therefore be an important measure of how successfully local authorities embed these principles.
2.2 Corporate Parenting Principles
The Corporate Parenting Principles set out seven principles that local authorities will have regard to when exercising their functions in relation to looked after children and young people, as follows:
- To act in the best interests, and promote the physical and mental health and wellbeing, of those children and young people;
- To encourage those children and young people to express their views, wishes and feelings;
- To take into account the views, wishes and feelings of those children and young people;
- To help those children and young people gain access to, and make the best use of, services provided by the local authority and its relevant partners;
- To promote high aspirations, and seek to secure the best outcomes, for those children and young people;
- For those children and young people to be safe, and for stability in their home lives, relationships and education or work; and
- To prepare those children and young people for adulthood and independent living.
The Corporate Parenting Principles do not replace or change existing legal duties, The principles are intended to encourage local authorities to be ambitious and aspirational for their looked-after children and care leavers.
In addition, section 10 of the Children Act 2004 sets out the responsibility to make arrangements to promote co-operation between 'relevant partners' with a view to improving the well-being of children in their area. This should include arrangements in relation to looked-after children and care leavers. Section 10(5) of the 2004 Act places a duty on relevant partners to co-operate with the local authority in the making of these arrangements, therefore promoting and ensuring a joined-up approach to improving the well-being of children in their area.
3. Key Outcomes
The key outcomes for all children identified in the Children Act 2004 remain relevant and enable the local authority, the Children and Family Services Department and its practitioners to focus on the key aspects for all children. The performance indicators local authorities and partners use are structured around these outcomes.
All children and young people have the right to have their physical, emotional and mental health safeguarded and promoted. Where appropriate, they should be supported to develop a sense of well being through:
- Build resilience;
- Develop their self-image and confidence;
- Experience positive affirmation and encouragement.
All young people should be given the encouragement and opportunity to live a healthy lifestyle.
All children and young people have the right to be safe and secure, protected from harm and neglect, and to live in an environment that enables them to develop to their full physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social potential. This includes being safe from a range of concerns. When they need help to achieve these outcomes it should be available in a timely way and delivered through effective interventions.
All children and young people have the right to family life wherever possible and to be supported to take part in community life. They have the right to a continuity of care wherever possible and to develop and preserve their own identities.
All children have a right to a loving and secure home and, where this cannot be provided by their birth parents and wider families, children should have the opportunity to experience this through adoption, special guardianship or long term fostering.
Enjoying and achieving
All children and young people have the right to the best possible education and training which meets their identified needs and equips them to live full adult lives. Looked after children should have the opportunity to attend good schools, higher education/training establishments where they make the expected or greater than expected progress and effective use is made of the additional resources available for them through the pupil premium. All children (not forgetting young carers) have the right to time and support to pursue appropriate leisure interests.
Making a positive contribution
All children should be encouraged and supported to make an age-appropriate positive contribution wherever they are living or call 'home'. They will be able to do this best where they have a continuity of care, an understanding about their identity and information which they can use to make informed decisions about themselves. Therefore, contributing to their own lives.
Children, young people and care leavers should also be encouraged to take an interest in their communities, through school, higher education/training or local clubs, and to take part in activities which contribute to these and /or support others.
All children have the right to be supported in their studies, to be prepared for adult life and work, and to be equipped with the skills and knowledge that will help them overcome any social disadvantage, become self-sufficient and able to make positive choices for themselves.
4. Key Principles
Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children will always be at the centre of the work Local Authorities and their partners undertake with children and their families. The child's needs are paramount, and the needs and wishes of each child, be they a baby or infant, or an older child, should be put first, so that every child receives the support they need before a problem escalates.
Children and Family Services, together with their local authority colleagues as corporate parents, will work to secure the above outcomes by working to enable a child's own family including their wider family meet their needs. They will facilitate services, including early help services, to support children and families consistent with child's safety and well-being.
What we do is as important as how we do it. Children and Family staff have been involved in drawing up a set of standards which they will strive towards to ensure maximum positive impact in the lives of the children and families we work with.
Where a child cannot be cared for within his or her immediate family, strenuous efforts will be made to identify potential carers within the wider kinship network of the child who are able and willing to meet the needs and best interests of the child. If continuing care within his/her family is not possible, every effort will be made to identify suitable alternative carers through adoption or other forms of permanence. Efforts to secure the child's future must be timely and avoid delay. Children and Family Services will ensure that permanence plans are made for all looked after children within 4 months of their becoming looked after.
Children and Family Services will ensure that children who are looked after are placed in properly approved placements, suitable to meet their needs and that, wherever possible, siblings are placed together. They will be placed in a family placement unless there are assessed reasons why residential care or an alternative type of placement is the better option. Contact with their birth family should be promoted, and where required, supported, except where this may be contrary to the child's best interests.
If a young person remains in care until adulthood Children and Family Services will ensure that they are supported when they leave care, including through remaining in their foster placement (Staying Put), at least until they are 25, to give them a positive start to independent living. This support will include personal assistance with living independently and with accessing and making the most of education and employment opportunities.
Children, their parents and other significant adults will be consulted about plans for their care and these plans will be subject to regular independent review. Children and their families will be encouraged to take part in their reviews and can expect that their views will be listened to and help shape the child's Plan.
Children and Family Services will ensure that children have access to advocacy services that will assist them in being heard.
5. Our Strategy
The Strategy of the Children's Services will be to harness Government policy and funding opportunities to develop evidence-based services that meet the needs of children and families.
To reflect on and consider feedback on local and national issues and to promote a learning and developing culture that will work to provide:
- Sustainable and cost-effective structures and services;
- Partnerships with other statutory services and locally based providers;
- Well-trained and supported staff who are able to carry out their responsibilities effectively;
- A commitment to seek the views of service users/stakeholders and to use their input as a key method for evaluating current services and improving future service delivery;
- A clear sense of corporate responsibility throughout the Council which ensures that children and their families have their needs met within the community.
This will deliver a range of universal, targeted and specialist services. These services will aim to reduce the numbers of children becoming children in need and concentrate specialist services on children most in need to give them the best possible life chances.