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Getting it Right for Looked After Children and Young People
The Scottish Government published the Getting it Right for Looked After Children and Young People strategy in 2015. Built on the principles of Getting it Right for Every Child, the strategy focuses on three strategic priorities - early engagement, early permanence and improving the quality of care.
Key actions for the Scottish Government include:
- roll out of the Realigning Children's Services programme, sharing data and learning
- use the Permanence and Care Excellence (PACE) programme to focus on earlier permanence for children who are looked after at home
- collect data on the changing profile of care placements, to be published so agencies can improve planning and practice
- consult on introducing a standard inter-agency fee for adoption
- convene a working group to evaluate a national allowance scheme for kinship and foster care
In its 2017-18 Programme for Government, the Scottish Government confirmed the following actions related to the strategy would be implemented in the coming year:
- mapping of availability of services in local areas
- launch of a National Kinship Care Advice Service in Autumn 2017
- proposals for national kinship and foster care allowances to be published in Summer 2018
- review legislation around child contact with parents and families and ensure best practice is shared
- corporate parents will publish plans by the end of March 2018
On improving the quality of care, actions for 2017-18 include the development of Secure Care National Standards and establishing a transformative model for secure care through a new Secure Care Strategic Board, to report by the end of 2018.
Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014
The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 includes a number of provisions related to looked after children and young people which came into effect on 1 April 2015. As well as extending the age up to which formerly looked after children and young people may request access to aftercare assistance from 21 to 26, the Act also establishes 'continuing care', allowing looked after young people to stay in their placement beyond the age of 16 up to the age of 21.
Other provisions in the Act include establishing a list of public bodies to become 'Corporate Parents', a duty on local authorities to provide services to families with children at risk of becoming looked after, new support for kinship carers and placing Scotland‘s National Adoption Register on a statutory footing.
The Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland (CELCIS) is publishing a series of briefings on specific parts of the Act.
- The first briefing focuses on the changes related to ‘Aftercare’ and ‘Continuing Care’.
- The second briefing looks at Part 12 of the Act, entitled ‘Services in relation to children at risk of becoming looked after.
- The third briefing looks at Part 9 of the Act, entitled 'Corporate Parenting'.
The Scottish Government published Statutory Guidance for Part 9 (Corporate Parenting) of the Act. The first report reviewing Corporate Parenting activity between April 2015 and March 2018 was recently published. Based on information drawn from 124 Corporate Parenting Plans produced by public bodies in Scotland, the report considers how Corporate Parenting has been embraced under Part 9 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 since the legislation was implemented.
Guidance has been published by the Scottish Government on Part 10 (Aftercare) for managers and practitioners, working with looked after children and care leavers, and Part 11 (Continuing Care) outlining the new provision of continuing care.
Independent Care Review in Scotland
Fiona Duncan, Chief Executive of Lloyds TSB Foundations for Scotland, has been appointed as Chair to the Independent Care Review in Scotland. The review will examine underpinning legislation, practices, culture and ethos of the care system. The Review will be driven and shaped by the evidence of care experienced young people and propose changes to the care system that will improve outcomes and quality of life for young people.
A website providing information on plans for the Independent Care Review has been launched. The review will in the first instance attempt to discover and reach consensus on its vision and purpose. This will be achieved by understanding and agreeing on two fundamental questions:
- What do we mean by a root and branch review? And that means being absolutely clear about what is part of the Review and what is not.
- What does good care and protection look like for children and young people in care?
The full list of members to sit on the independent care review group has been established and announced by the Scottish Government. The group will listen to young people with experience of care, with a particular focus on children in care now, as well as providers, to inform recommendations to improve both the quality of life and outcomes of young people in care.
The Independent Care Review recently entered the third stage covering June 2018 to Autumn 2019, and will use this 'Journey' stage to begin to deliver improvements for infants, children and young people who experience care. The Journey stage will involve six working groups - each following interconnecting paths to explore areas of practice that need deeper understanding. These six working groups will be on: Edges of care; Components of care; Justice and care; Workforce; Health and wellbeing; and the Best place in the world.
Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc Act 2016
A Bill designed to improve the Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) process has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government’s proposed Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc. (Scotland) Bill aims to implement the remaining recommendations of Lord Cullen in the 2009 Review of FAI Legislation. Provisions in the Bill include providing flexibility on the location and accommodation for FAIs; permitting FAIs to be re-opened if new evidence arises or if the evidence is so substantial to permit a completely new inquiry; and placing a requirement on those who receive recommendations from the Sheriff to report back on steps taken. The Bill received Royal Assent on 14 January 2016.
The Justice Committee was allocated the Bill and published a Stage 1 report that supported the general principles of the Bill but asked the Scottish Government to reflect upon evidence received on issues such as the scope for mandatory FAIs.
As MSPs agreed to the general principles of the Bill at Stage 1, the Scottish Government confirmed that the Bill will extend the mandatory category of FAIs to deaths of children in secure accommodation, but it will not extend this to all looked after children. The Scottish Government says it would establish a working group to consider the position of looked after children.
The Bill was passed by MSPs in December 2015.
A number of changes were introduced in June 2017 under the Act, including the power to reopen an FAI if new evidence arises and to hold a fresh FAI if the new evidence is substantial enough. Single FAIs into linked events in different sheriffdoms can be carried out under the reforms and more flexibility on the locations and accommodation for FAIs has been introduced. Individuals or organisations could also be required to explain how recommendations placed on them by a sheriff after an FAI have been implemented under the new powers.
Inquiry into decision making on whether to take a child into care
In June 2012, the Scottish Parliament's Education and Culture Committee launched an inquiry to look at:
- the decision-making processes involved in determining whether a child should be removed from the family home and taken into care;
- whether these decision-making processes are delivering the best outcomes for children and their families.
Having held a series of meetings, taken oral evidence and considered written submissions, the Committee published an interim report in March 2013, exploring a number of issues, including the complexity of decision-making processes, the cost of childcare and the balance between parents' and children's rights.
Continuing its inquiry, the Committee took further evidence focusing on improving the process of decision-making and its outcomes. In September 2013, the Committee published its final report, concluding that "current decision-making processes are not always delivering the best outcomes for children and their families".
The Committee made a number of recommendations, including:
- The Scottish Government should state whether early interventions will lead to fewer children becoming looked after. If so, it should explain what the implications would be for service providers.
- The complementary skills of staff in universal services and in social work must be used more effectively.
- The Scottish Government should provide detailed information on the impact of the local government settlement on social workers’ post-qualification training and career development, and their ability to support children and families.
- The Scottish Government and local government must take all necessary measures to improve staff retention in children’s social work.
- Further research is needed on claims that parents with learning disabilities are discriminated against.
- Work on establishing a "better, more rounded picture of a looked-after child’s wellbeing" should be progressed as a matter of priority.
- The Scottish Government should provide assurances that current alcohol and drugs policy takes children’s rights fully into account.
The Scottish Government responded to the Committee's final report in December 2013 and has since provided an update on action taken to implement the Committee's recommendations.
National Confidential Forum
The Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 establishes a National Confidential Forum (NCF) to offer adults placed in institutional care as children acknowledgement of their experience, including abuse and neglect. The NCF, based on the pilot forum 'Time to be Heard', will be set up as part of the Mental Welfare Commission.
Speaking during a final debate on the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Bill, which was passed in December 2013, then Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill confirmed that guidance for care providers on the NCF would be made available, eligibility criteria had been extended to include 16 and 17-year-olds and progress was being made in relation to the eligibility of children who were in foster care.
National Inquiry into Historical Child Abuse
The Chair and remit of the National Statutory Inquiry into Historical Child Abuse in Care has been announced by the Scottish Government. In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, Education Secretary Angela Constance announced that Susan O’Brien QC will chair the Inquiry, which will be established by 1 October 2015, to investigate the nature and extent of abuse of children while in care in Scotland and to consider the extent to which institutions and bodies with legal responsibility for the care of children failed in their duty to protect children in care in Scotland from abuse.
In addition to children formally placed 'in care' in institutions, the Inquiry will have an extended remit to include allegations of abuse in foster care, in long-term hospital care and in boarding schools. The full text of the Inquiry Terms of Reference and information on the next steps can be found here.
National Foster Care Review
In December 2012, the Scottish Government commissioned the National Foster Care Review, to be carried out by the Looked After Children Strategic Implementation Group (LACSIG) Foster Care Hub. Chaired by Sandra Paterson, the review was designed to assess the viability and effectiveness of certain reform options, and to provide Scottish Government and local authorities with a set of clear recommendations for change.
A final report was published in December 2013. Recommendations in the review include:
- The establishment of a set of clear descriptors for the different types of foster care placements available, to be “set out in national guidance, and embedded into practice via the Care Inspectorate's Annual Return for Fostering Agencies and appropriate national statistics”.
- The introduction of a maximum placement limit through a new National Care Standard for Foster Care and Family Placement Services.
- The development of a National Learning and Development Framework for Foster Care, underwritten by new National Care Standards.
The Scottish Government responded to the findings of the Review, indicating its agreement with the review's recommendation to limit the number of children in a fostering household to three, with some exceptions. The response also agreed with the recommendation for better descriptions of foster care placements, with a working group set up on how to build the new descriptors into national statistics. It was announced that a national foster care database will not be taken forward, but the response stated that commissioning data may be collected via annual returns by the Care Inspectorate.
In 2017 the Scottish Government will be working with stakeholders to plan how the new learning and development Standard for foster care can be implemented, and reviewing care allowances.
Kilbrandon Again - enquiry into Scotland's care and justice system
An enquiry by the Commission for Children and Young People Scotland and Action for Children, on how well Scotland supports children and young people in care who are involved in the justice system.
The enquiry, titled Kilbrandon Again, will hear from young people and adults with experience, professionals working in the system and experts and look at whether the current Children’s Hearings and wider justice system works effectively and in a rights-compliant way.
The panel has already identified issues of concern:
- the age of criminal responsibility,
- the long-term burden of a criminal record,
- the lack of support for young people coming out of care and prison,
- the lack of diversion from harm for the most vulnerable children and young people, and
- the incidence of recidivism.
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