Looked-after children guidance to improve quality of life for children and young people
Last year, almost 61,000 children and young people were looked after by local authorities in England.
The majority of children and young people enter care after experiencing abuse or neglect or severe family problems.
Early experiences have an impact on later health and wellbeing. While some children do well, statistics show that around 60 per cent of looked-after children and young people in England experience emotional and mental health problems.
It is important that children and young people experience high quality care, not just while they are being looked after but also for some time after they have grown-up and moved out.
NICE and the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) have now issued joint draft guidance on improving the quality of life for looked-after children and young people. This guidance is available for public consultation until 24 April and endorses and complements other guidance issued by the Department of Health and by the Department for Children, Schools and Families. The final guidance document will be published in September later this year.
The recommendations in the guidance have been developed using information from a number of different sources including an independent guidance committee, practitioners, service providers and children and young people themselves (including their birth families).
The joint draft guidance makes a number of recommendations.
Children's trusts should develop a corporate parenting strategy that focuses on partnership work and addresses health and educational inequalities. Trusts should prioritise the voice of the child or young person, placing them at the heart of the decision-making processes.
“As the corporate parent, local authorities need to prioritise the children's needs,” says Amanda Edwards, deputy chief executive of SCIE.
“Promoting good health and wellbeing is central, and the joint SCIE/NICE work on this will be a must-read for councils and others who care for looked-after children.”
The draft guidance states that services should be regulated and audited to ensure that all children's trusts provide a level of care that meets the full range of their needs, promote healthy lifestyles and ensure budgets are aligned to meet the needs of looked-after children and young people including improving placement and educational stability.
Other recommendations in the joint draft guidance are about ensuring carers and their families, including ‘kinship carers,' receive ongoing support.
Each child or young person should be encouraged to develop or maintain a sense of identity and belonging by exploring their own life story using a sensitive and child-centred approach.
Children's trusts should provide staff with training to understand the complex issues around being a ‘looked after child or young person' including the particular needs of babies and very young children who enter the care system.
The overarching aim of the guidance is to promote the individual needs of all children and young people. However, there are particular recommendations for black minority ethnic children and unaccompanied asylum seekers who are looked after, with a suggestion to organisations to consider the possibility of setting up a multi-agency specialist panel to discuss their needs and placement choices.
The draft guidance also proposes providing targeted support at school and for further education, especially before and during applications to attend further or higher education. Supporting students throughout their time at university or college was also recognised.
“Educational outcomes are vital,“ says Colin Thompson, a young adult who has experienced being in care and is a member of the guideline development group.
“I'm passionate about this guidance after my own experience in care but even more passionate about it being implemented.
“Each looked-after child has a difficult journey to take and I sincerely believe that if most of this guidance is implemented it will make a difference to a lot of young people's lives and to their long-term outcomes.”
Organisations wishing to submit comments are invited to do so via the NICE website between Monday 15 February and Wednesday 14 April 2010. Only stakeholders can comment formally on consultations, but organisations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland can register to be a stakeholder at anytime during the process.
Final guidance is expected in September this year, once the consultation process has been completed.
This page was last updated: 16 April 2010