Leicestershire Cares has actively engaged with the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care in England since its launch. We responded to their initial Call for Evidence, submitted feedback to the Case for Change, and have met with the Chair to share the thoughts of our staff and young people on how the Review has been conducted and the opportunities it presents.
Through our engagement with the Review and our work with care experienced young people, we have developed five specific asks that we have submitted to the reviews’ Call for Ideas. These are set out below and aim to provide some tangible, practical and easily implemented actions which could create real change for care experienced people.
We are looking forward to seeing the Review’s final recommendations in spring 2022 and will continue to follow and engage with the Review’s progress.
Idea 1: Corporate parenting
Context: Young people tell us that their only engagement with their local authority is through their PA or the leaving care/social care teams. This does not reflect the full responsibility of the local authority as a corporate parent. In addition, our engagement with local councillors suggests that, despite their good intentions, few are aware of their full responsibilities as a corporate parent or the number of/challenges faced by care experienced young people in their ward.
Idea: All councillors have to undergo at least a half day training on their corporate parenting responsibilities when they take up their position. All councillors are expected to have spoken with at least 3 to 4 care experienced young people from their ward throughout the year.
Impact: Councillors understand and take corporate parenting seriously and build their understanding of CEYP, which should lead to more informed oversight and decision making about children’s social care in the local authority.
Idea 2: It takes a village to raise a child.
Context: Our work draws strength from building connections and networks between young people and business, the community and their local authority. Businesses and community groups have a huge range of opportunities, skills and experience they can offer to CEYP. However, in our experience, local authorities do not make or draw on these links to support their young people to develop sustainable relationships that could continue to support them beyond the “care cliff” at age 25.
Idea: All local authorities should have in place plans which show how they will work with community groups and the business sector to support CEYP, and these are monitored and reported against on an annual basis. PAs and 16+ workers should be set objectives related to networking and building relationships with businesses and local community groups and draw on these to create opportunities for young people to grow and thrive.
Impact: Leads to far more resources, perspectives, skills and experience being made available for CEYP. CEYP build relationships with organisations, groups and services beyond their PA which can continue to support them long after they leave care.
Idea 3: Young people’s voices
Context: While there is legislation in place which aims to ensure young people’s voices are heard by social care professionals, young people often feel this is tokenistic and that they are rarely listened to by the workers that support them. This is compounded by a lack of knowledge about how they can provide constructive feedback on their workers’ support.
Idea: Social workers/care workers/16+ workers’ appraisals should include 360 degree feedback from the young people they work with.
Impact: Ensures young people’s voices are fed into staff development and performance management, improving quality of support and services. Young people gain more of an insight into the roles of the people supporting them and how the system works, and feel they have a say in the way they are supported.
Idea 4: Procurement
Context: Local authorities spend billions of pounds a year on contracts which are awarded to the private sector. Many have social value clauses which require businesses to state how they will benefit the local community if they win a contract, but often too little consideration is given to how this could be leveraged to directly support local authorities’ young people.
Idea: All government and local authority tendering should include a provision where firms have to commit to supporting CEYP through a range of options such as offering work placements, apprenticeships, mentoring and support to CEYP groups (see our Promise to Care for some great examples of this). The Care Leaver Covenant could be used to capture this and provide a reward/badge for businesses who deliver on their commitments.
Impact: This would open up a range of opportunities for CEYP to take steps towards training and employment, and help pull in the resources and expertise of the private sector who benefit from billions of pounds of public sector funding each year.
Idea 5: CEYP-led training for professionals
Context: Young people often tell us that they do not feel their PAs or other support workers are fully aware of CEYP’s rights and entitlements, and therefore cannot advocate effectively on their behalf. In addition, while there are many professionals with lived experience working in social care, the vast majority have never experienced what CEYP have been through and need support to empathise with young people and understand their viewpoint.
Idea: CEYP should be supported to develop training and awareness raising tools for professionals across local authorities, education providers, community and business, about the issues they face and their rights/entitlements.
Impact: This would help raise awareness, open up doors and build connections between young people and the community, businesses and local authorities. It would also ensure that all workers are clear on the entitlements of CEYP and young people themselves will gain skills and a deeper understanding of their rights.