Any child may be in need of help and protection at any time. There is no single factor which is a necessary or sufficient condition for a safeguarding concern to arise, and children may be in need due to an organic condition, a single occurrence, or a persistent set of circumstances. A proportion of children are considered to be at risk of significant harm, and direct statutory intervention is needed.
Some children experience harm or risk of harm which is so significant that the Council must secure their safety by taking them into care and becoming their legal guardian. A child in this situation is a Looked After Child and the Council becomes their Corporate Parent. Nationally, the number of looked after children has continued to rise; it has increased steadily over the last eight years. This reflects an increased demand for child protection.
Children enter the care of the Local Authority by two main routes:
Under section 20 of the Children Act 1989: the local authority will find suitable accommodation for a child when the parents accept and agree that they cannot provide a suitable home for their child. Parental responsibility remains with the parent/guardian & any person who has parental responsibility can remove the child from local authority accommodation at any time.
Under section 31 of the Children Act 1989: the local authority will apply for a care order which will be made by a court. The Local Authority acquires parental responsibility for the child.
Where children become looked after by the Local Authority the following three options for legal permanence must be fully considered:
Remain with or return to birth parent(s) without a legal order, with appropriate support to maintain this.
Live with a relative or person close to the child by virtue of a Special Guardianship Order or Child Arrangements Order(previously a Residence Order)
Adoption into an alternative family
If none of these is available, the other options available are:
Living with long-term foster carers as a looked after child;
Living in a stable placement in a children's home.
The looked after population is not a static group of children and key issues vary over time as different needs emerge. For example, issues such as child sexual exploitation (CSE), changes in court processes, adoption and permanency and changes in the broader environment have an impact on the children looked after population. The government considers improving the lives of children in care and care leavers to be a national priority.
What are the key inequalities?
Children Looked After may have experienced a lack of support and challenge in education, more frequent school moves and absences and this impacts negatively on their educational attainment.
Children Looked After have statistically poorer health outcomes. This is partly due to difficult early experiences of neglect, poverty, abuse, prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol and parental mental health difficulties.
In March 2015 the Department for Education and the Department of Health jointly published new statutory guidance on Promoting the health and well-being of looked-after children. The guidance recognised that almost half of children in care have a diagnosable mental health disorder.
Children in care have often experienced abusive, chaotic or inconsistent parenting which impacts on their ability to make secure attachments and positive relationships in later life.
Unaccompanied Asylum seeking children and young people will have experienced significant trauma in their home countries and on their journeys to the UK.
Children Looked After are over represented in the prison population nationally.
Approximately two thirds of Children Looked After have an identified Special Educational Need and Disability (SEN'D) (Department of Education, 2014). The Children and Families Act 2014 introduced new measures to protect the welfare of SEN'D children which means that the local authority and health commissioners have a duty to ensure they commission and plan services for SEN'D Looked after Children potentially up to the age of 25.
Work to carefully manage entry to and exits from the care system to continue to safely manage reductions in numbers of Looked After Children
Create a new Placement Service:
Maintain as wide a range of types of placements as possible, so that young people have some choice over the type of placement most suitable to their needs and preferences
Maximise the use of family-based placements
Develop the number of local placements, so that children are able to live within the borough, where appropriate
Ensure that children, young people and families remain firmly at the centre of decision making which affects their lives
Work with partnership organisations, including the NHS, the Police and voluntary sector organisations, to engage with and contribute to meeting the assessed needs of South Tyneside's vulnerable children, young people and families
Educational and Employment Outcomes
Ensure that all children have an effective, high quality personal education plan
Ensure that school moves happen only in exceptional circumstances.
Support young people leaving care to enter further education, employment and training.
Review and respond to health needs of children and young people in a timely way.
Access to specialist health services including those related to additional needs or disability.
Healthy lifestyle advice on, healthy diet, healthy relationships, promoting a healthy weight, and increased physical activity.
Children and young people have their need for any additional emotional support recognised and addressed, are given the knowledge and skills to achieve emotional stability, resilience and self-confidence.
Children and young people enter adulthood in a planned way, with a home to live in, the skills to look after themselves and the ability to earn a living or continue in education or training.
All eligible young people at the age of 16 will have a personal advisor who will remain involved until the young person reaches the age of at least 21 and continue to offer support up to the age of 25.
Utilise the Transitions Panel to support the planning for young people from the age of 16, who may be eligible for support from Adult Services.
Increase the number of young people in Staying Put arrangements
There is no single factor which creates the circumstances in which children are brought into the care of the Local Authority. The interactions between contributory factors are complex and frequently circular, affecting families' capacity to protect and support their children:
parenting capacity, which can be affected by a range of factors such as economic situation, prior education and educational experience; physical and emotional well-being; offending;
family capacity for protection, including capacity to accept and invest in support to enhance their protective role;
extent of child or adult disability including physical, learning and mental health difficulties
negative parental behaviours, for example domestic violence or substance use, use of alcohol, neglectful parenting
As children develop independence and in particular, move into adolescence, they become a key agent in their own situation, and their need for protection may change. The risks for young people evolve, and vulnerabilities include children and young people who experience homelessness; who go missing; and who are vulnerable to exploitation (including sexual exploitation). Other risks associated with adolescence are sexual health, drug and alcohol misuse.
The Department for Education publish annual statistics on children looked after and adopted which provide a national oversight. The most common primary reasons for children to be taken into care during 2015-16 were
54%, abuse or neglect
19%, family dysfunction
Nationally on 31st March 2016,
There were 70,440 Looked After Children in England (0.6% of the population):
There were approximately 26, 500 Care Leavers aged 18 -21, 87% of whom local authorities were in touch with
For Looked After Children:
56% of looked after children were male and 44% female
The rate of looked after children in the borough at the end of 2015/16 (99 per 10,000 children), once significantly higher than the rate among the council's nearest statistical neighbours (95.7 per 10,000) is now closer to that in similar areas. The rate is however much higher than that in the North East (84 per 10,000) and in England (60 per 10,000). Regional benchmarking based on 2015/16 year end shows that South Tyneside had the 4th highest rate of looked after children in the North East after Middlesbrough (120), Hartlepool (105) and Sunderland (101).
Although the overall number of children in care has reduced there has been an increase in the proportion of older children in care in 2015/16, with 60.2% aged over 10 compared to 57.3% the previous year. There has also been an increase in the level of children under one in care, up to 8% at the end of 2015/16 from 5% in 2014/15. The largest group of children who are looked after are 10-15 year olds, accounting for 42.6% of children.
Children becoming looked after
127 children became looked after in 2015/16, a reduction on 2014/15 when the number was 130. 63% of children becoming looked after were male (79), an increase on 2014/15 when 54% were male and 46% female. 95.2% were White British. 73% (92) became looked after on a Section 20 and 27% (34) on a Care Order.
The most common age groups were children aged 10-15 (32% / 40 children) and children aged under 1 (29% / 36 children). The level of children aged under 1 becoming looked after (29%) is particularly high when compared to 2014/15 when the proportion was 19%, and in comparison to statistical neighbours (21%). 21 of the 126 children (17%) became looked after at, or within days of birth, and a further 3 became looked after within less than 3 months of their birth. The most common single age group/gender was males aged 10-15 (26 children). These young males accounted for 21% of all children becoming looked after in 2015/16.
The largest group of Looked After Children is White British at 91%, the largest group behind this is Black African at 4%.
"Placement" is a term used to describe where Looked After Children live, a combination of accommodation with the best support to meet the child/young person's needs. Stability is one measure used to assess the success of the placement: enabling a child to stay in the same placement has many benefits including stability of education, networks and friendship groups. In South Tyneside, 72% of our Looked After Children remain in the same placement for over 2 years, which compares with 67% regionally, 67.8% for statistical neighbours, and 68% for England as a whole.
72- 75% of Looked After Children live in Foster placements. At the end of March 2016, 13% Children lived in residential placements and 5.5% were subject to Care Orders but living at home with parents. This means that the Council retained parental responsibility whilst work with parents is undertaken to ensure the family is a safe and nurturing place for the child/ young person. 8.3% of Looked After Children were placed for adoption.
Children ceasing to be Looked After
136 children ceased to be looked after between April 1st 2015 and 31st March 2016, 6 more than in 2014/15. The main reason for children ending their period of care was to return home to their family or relatives with parental responsibility, followed by Special Guardianship Order (13%), up from 8% in 2014/15 and now in line the North East (13%) and Statistical neighbours (16%).
19 children leaving care were adopted (14%), a reduction from 2014/15 (22% / 30 children). However there were a large volume of adoption proceedings which were ongoing at the end of 2015/16. It is expected that these adoptions will occur in 2016/17 which will increase this measure.
In July 2016, the Government published Keep on Caring which extended existing entitlements so that all care leavers are able to access support from the local authority until age 25. South Tyneside Council welcomes the opportunity to offer ongoing support to our Care Leavers. In March 2016, there were 113 care leavers aged 19, 20 and 21 and we were in touch with all of them.
96% of our care leavers were in suitable accommodation and 51% were in Education, Training or Employment, compared to 34% regionally, 47% statistical neighbours and 49% nationally.
Children with disabilities transitioning to adult life
At any time, about 15-20 Looked After Children have significant disabilities. They are served by the Children's Disability Team and as they approach their 16th birthday, a Pathway Plan is develop which includes and they would then transition through to the Adults Disability Team, for long term support through Adult Social Care.
For some children looked after and young people, the neglect and abuse they have experienced has had an extensive impact on their emotional, mental and physical well-being. As a result, some aspects of their behaviour can be challenging: they may take disproportionate risks with their safety or may express challenging feelings. Responding to these needs is a challenge
Research has shown that better outcomes for children looked after are achieved when a placement offers stability, acceptance and inclusion. A long term of permanent placement offers children looked after emotional permanence (attachment); physical permanence (stability) and legal permanence (the carer has parental responsibility for the child). A broader range of placements is required to combine accommodation with support in bespoke packages, tailored to the unique needs of each child and young person.
Children who are looked after by the local authority are more likely to have poor experiences of education and very low educational achievement at school. The Social Exclusion Unit's report "A Better Education for Children in Care" identified five key reasons why children looked after underachieve in education:
their lives are characterised by instability;
they spend too much time out of school;
they do not have sufficient help with their education if they fall behind;
primary carers are not expected or equipped to provide sufficient support and encouragement for learning and development;
they have unmet emotional, mental & physical needs that impact on their education
Closing the gap between the attainment of children looked after and their peers remains a high priority South Tyneside.
Embed Staying Put Policy to avoid disruption for care leavers moving into further and higher education.
Ensure looked after children and care leavers are aware of their entitlements to financial support to promote their education, training and employment aspirations.
Supporting the development of appropriate work experience and apprenticeships and enabling young people to access them.
Statutory Guidance on 'Promoting the health and wellbeing of looked-after children' (2015) details the extent and nature of health problems among children in the care system. Children and young people who are looked after have the same core health needs as other young people, but their backgrounds and experiences are likely to make them particularly vulnerable to poorer health outcomes. South Tyneside will tackle this by:
Closer working practices between Health and Social Care professionals to respond to the outcomes of health assessments
Responsive access to a range of counselling and therapies, if necessary, according to needs to ensure proactive support as opposed to 'reactive treatment'
Health information is available with the child/young person to ensure knowledge and understanding of needs, particularly in times when there is a change of placement or circumstance.
The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 states that a care leaver is someone who has been in the care of the Local Authority for a period of 13 weeks or more spanning their 16th birthday. Over 10,000 young people aged 16 or over leave local authority care each year. Care leavers will often be living independently at age 18, whereas national data shows that 50% of all 22 year olds remain living in their family home. Those leaving care may struggle to cope with the transition to adulthood and may experience social exclusion, unemployment, early pregnancy, health problems, end up in custody or homeless.
From 2008, the government has required local authorities to support care leavers up to the age of 25 if they remained in, or planned to return to, education and training. Subsequently, the Children and Families Act 2014 introduced 'staying put' arrangements which allow children in care to stay with their foster families until the age of 21 years, providing both parties agree to the arrangement.
Needs to Improve On:
Preparation for independence at an earlier stage for this to be built upon well before plans for moving are finalised,
Accessibility and take up of health care and ensure young people are aware of the importance of dental appointments, staying healthy, etc.
Improve range and quality of placement provision for young people leaving care aged 18 and over including options of supported and semi-supported accommodation.
The birth rate in South Tyneside is stable and forecast to reduce.
Demand is for help and protection for children is increasing nationally and the demand continues to rise in South Tyneside. There are a significant range of factors which affect parenting capacity, and this means that need and demand cannot sensibly be projected.
However, our aim is to continue to safely reduce the number of Looked After Children over the coming years.
Provides our 'front door' for referrals in to Children's Services.
Strengthening and Supporting Families
There are 4 child protection and proceedings teams that work directly with children and young people who are at risk of significant harm, ensuring that their wishes and feeling are heard and considered. Their remit includes: families in the pre-proceedings process, public and private law proceedings, looked after children, and children who are subject to supervision orders or a child protection plan.
Edge of Care (Families First)
The service will provide various outreach and in-reach interventions; and offer short break weekend accommodation for young people where this is an assessed need and part of their Support Plan. We will work in partnership with families in the community, foster care families, adoptive families and our residential children's homes to help and support them to stay together, or to separate positively, based on best interest decision-making.
Integrated Looked After (ILAC) Team
Our ILAC teams work with looked after children and care leavers. ILAC are co-located with The PLACE (our Virtual School), and offer a child-centred service with outcome focused planning. We have re-shaped the role of Family Workers in the ILAC team to become Personal Advisers who engage with a young person when they are 16 years old. This skilled team offer ongoing support and expertise around practical interventions and solutions to ensure young people can sustain independence.
The in-house residential service has one home in South Tyneside. Admissions to residential placements tend to be young people aged 14-16 as the challenges and complexities of adolescence and independence lead to increased chances of family breakdown. Demand for residential services exceeds supply and this is expected to continue.
Our in-house Fostering Service recruits and supports Foster Carers across South Tyneside and the Region.
Independent Fostering Agencies (IFA)
On occasion the Council is requited to find placement opportunities on a regional basis, and would therefore use Independent Fostering Agencies (IFAs) to provide specialist placement.
Staying Put with a former foster carer
From 18 - 21 years old, a young person may choose "to Stay Put" with their Foster Carer.
The Adoption Service works to secure adoption for children who are unable to live with their birth parents or a connected person. It recruits and assesses prospective adopters, matches children with prospective families, provides and commissions a range of support services pending and following placement as well as post order.
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services
The Lifecycle Service provides a whole person tier 2 therapeutic and non-therapeutic services to young people of any age and their families. Tier two supports young people who have difficulties with attachment, behaviour, eating disorders, development, emerging OCD, anxiety and depression. A key role for the Lifecycle Service is providing the children and young people's IAPT programme (Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies). The lifecycle service collapses the age boundaries associated with young people service to ensure there are no issues with transition.
Children and Young People's Service (CYPS) - Northumberland Tyne and Wear Foundation Trust
The service consists of a multidisciplinary team of mental health practitioners including psychiatrists, nurses, social workers, psychological therapists and psychologists, occupational therapists and administrative staff. The integrated team operates to meet tier 3 specialist mental health needs of all children and young people regardless of their circumstances or other needs. The service can also provide consultation, advice and support directly to families but also to other agencies working with children and young people presenting with mental health.
Health Team for Children Looked After
The team with the support of a dedicated LAC nurse work to ensure that Looked After Children have their health needs identified and appropriate services are offered to meet those needs.
Matrixworks with young people aged under 18 in South Tyneside, their families and carers. The service provides help, support and advice to those whose lives have been affected by drug and alcohol misuse or those who are at risk of developing drug and alcohol problems.
South Tyneside Homes Young people who are 16-17 and homeless present at the Homefinder service based within South Tyneside Homes, where we have a commissioned service run by the De Paul Trust dedicated to ensuring that young people receive accommodation and support, with referral to Children's Social Care if needed.
Sanctuary South is a multi-agency project which builds on learning from the successful police led "Operation Sanctuary" investigating sexual crimes against vulnerable people. The service offers interventions for young people who are the victims of sexual exploitation, including confidential and comfortable space and specialist support provided in partnership with Barnardo's.
The PLACE - our virtual school -ensures that looked after children experience a stable and positive education, make good progress and achieve excellent results. Through positive relationships with education providers and a robust approach to monitoring and challenge, The Place has effectively developed school capacity to develop PEPs, and offers a creative response to the education challenges of every child to the age of 16.
Youth Justice The Youth Justice Service (YJS) is a multi-disciplinary agency working in partnership to reduce entrance to the youth justice system and prevent re-offending.
Family Group Conference
A Family Group Conference (FGC) is a meeting place where a family has the opportunity to come together, discuss and arrange a plan for their children. It is also an opportunity to deal with the issues that have been raised and make families aware of the standard of care that is required for their child.
The Family Group Conference service works with social care teams to ensure that all young people who are on the cusp of being accommodated are offered a family group conference.
Out of Hours Service
Within our Out of Hours services we work with Children and Adults providing care management and protection to the most vulnerable in South Tyneside.
Arts and cultural service
Accessing arts and cultural activities can provide important opportunities for looked after children to express themselves. However looked after children can often be excluded from arts and cultural activities due to the fact they can move often and tend to have more unsettled lifestyles. To help address this The Place undertake targeted work with looked after children and encourage achievement.
There have been many attempts to define 'early intervention' and 'prevention'. However, they are not tangible concepts and they can relate to a multitude of needs, services and outcomes. For the purposes of this needs assessment, South Tyneside will use the broad definition of early intervention published in C4EO's Grasping the Nettle report (2010): Intervening early and as soon as possible to tackle problems emerging for children, young people and their families or with a population most at risk of developing problems. Early intervention may occur at any point in a child or young person's life.
It is about identifying problems and risks at an early stage, assessing each child's needs within the context of their family, and providing them with the support and tools they need to stop the problems from escalating further. Sometimes the early intervention stage is referred to as 'early help' or 'targeted support'.
In general, prevention is considered to be an earlier stage of the continuum: it is about preventing these problems from arising in the first place. It is important to note that effective engagement at this stage can sometimes lead to more risks and problems being identified. This may lead to an increase in numbers of children looked after.
National Children in Care and Care Leavers survey
The State of the Nation Report is the 2015 version of the 'Care Monitor' survey of children in care and care leavers originally run annually by the Children's Rights Director. The Children's Commissioner publishes regular State of the Nation reports into aspects of children's lives. The first of five annual reports, published in August 2015, focuses on the experiences of children in care and care leavers and provides valuable intelligence to support this needs assessment. The Children's Commissioner argues the following should be included in any improvement plan for children looked after:
It is essential that children's views are sought and influence all decisions that are made about them and that all decisions are fully explained to them.
Support for all care leavers is extended up to 25 years of age.
Every child in care should have at least one continuing and consistent relationship with someone who is there for them through their time in care and into adulthood.
Services should enable children to keep their social worker for longer through their time in care.
Every child in care should have access to high quality therapeutic care to enable them to recover from past harm & build resilience & emotional wellbeing.
Ofsted have a range of thematic reviews available at:
South Tyneside Council is the corporate parent to our children and young people in care, the strategy seeks to ensure that the young people it looks after grow up with the same opportunities as other young people and go on to live successful and fulfilling lives.
In consultation with our looked after children and young people, the Corporate Strategy has been refreshed for 2017. The focus of the strategy is on placement choice and stability: young people know who they will live with and experience stable placements. They will have good relationships with those involved in their care.
Independent visitors for Children Looked After
This is a service for young people who may have little or no contact with significant persons such as family and friends. Where a young person is identified as such the Independent Reviewing Officer can recommend that the social worker make a referral to the Independent Visitors scheme which is managed through Action for Children. Action for children will marry up the needs and interests of the young person with a volunteer and the young person will take the lead in terms of what can be offered, this might simply be participating in an activity once a month outside their normal routines.
The National Youth Advocacy Service is commissioned by the authority to provide independent advocacy. The NYA works as part of a regional framework to ensure children and young people:
have a say in decisions made about their lives;
are able to share their concerns about their circumstances;
are listened to and heard;
are treated fairly in the course of their contact with the Council.
Engagement and Participation Service
The Participation and Engagement service works to ensure that children and young people are involved in all decisions affecting their choices and lives. South Tyneside's Engagement Strategy builds capability across the services, so that we can hear and respond to the voices and views of children and their families.
HM Government; Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice - 0 - 25 years - statutory guidance for organisations which work with and support children and young people who have special educational needs or disabilitieshttps://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/398815/SEND_Code_of_Practice_January_2015.pdf