Statement 2: Looked-after children and young people receive care from services and professionals that work collaboratively
Children and young people who are placed in local authority care have a diverse range of personal histories and challenges, often as a result of the abuse or neglect they have suffered. Collaborative working between professions and services is needed in order to meet these needs, to ameliorate the impact of abuse and neglect and to enable the children and young people to reach their potential.
Each looked-after child or young person will have a care plan, which sets out the needs of the child or young person, the planned outcomes and the way in which services should respond to these needs. The care plan also brings together other plans including the placement plan, health plan, personal education plan and, if relevant, the pathway plan for a young person aged 16 or over. The child or young person's social worker will be the lead professional, but decision making should be collaborative based on all professionals working together as a multi-agency group.
Professional groups and organisations that may need to contribute to the care plan and provide services include social workers; health professionals (for example GPs, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, health visitors) ; police; youth offending teams; probation; voluntary sector; and early year providers, schools (teachers, year heads, deputy and head teachers) and colleges. It is important that these groups work together as a team around the child to meet their needs and that, critically, assessment and service provision is centred on the child, taking their views into account.
When working as part of a multi-agency group, it is not enough to just share information; the professionals involved need to be proactive to act on and review the information on an ongoing basis. Independent reviewing officers (IROs) have a critical role to play in quality assuring and reviewing the care plan, ensuring that it is effective from a multidisciplinary perspective, that it provides a genuine response to each child's need and that the child's wishes and feelings are considered.
At a strategic level, local authorities and partners should have protocols in place to support multi-agency working, in particular with respect to specialist consultancy services to support collaboration on complex cases. Local authority and partner commissioners also need to ensure that social workers and other professionals who contribute to the assessment and care planning process are appropriately trained and that care plans are communicated to the range of service providers involved in the placement and support process.
Links to Ofsted Judgements
This statement links to the following Ofsted judgements:
'Decisions to look after children and young people are timely and made only when it is in their best interests. Those decisions are based on clear, effective, comprehensive and risk-based assessments involving other professionals and the family where appropriate.'
'Well-trained and supported social workers engage effectively with the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), courts and other partners, including health professionals, to reduce any unnecessary delay in proceedings or in achieving permanence and to support arrangements once they are made.'
'Care plans comprehensively address the needs and experiences of children and young people. They are regularly and independently reviewed.'
Tips, tools and practice examples
Suggestions for evidence that could be collected to assess performance against this quality statement include:
- attendance of relevant professional groups at meetings
- multidisciplinary contributions to the care plan
- how different professional groups are working together to make a difference for children and young people with more complex needs
- visits to GPs, opticians, dentists
- educational progression
Evidence should always include feedback from children and young people.
Ofsted's good practice resource 'Early intervention through a multi-agency approach' demonstrates how Sheffield City Council used creative and innovative approach by introducing a multi-agency perspective in providing services to children and families.
Lancashire County Council has developed an integrated service for looked-after children who need emotional health services. Further details can be found by clicking on the link below:
Research in Practice's handbook provides a framework for reviewing and evaluating progress with integrated working and includes self-audit tools from which to build an action plan to overcome difficulties. It consists of guidance, practical tools and films in which participants talk about their own experiences of integrated working and using the material in the handbook.
The NCB web pages on corporate parents has sections on 'Understanding the corporate parenting role', 'A model of effective corporate parenting', 'Working with children and young people' and 'Is the service good enough'? Each section has further links to materials on the role of the corporate parent. The materials are aimed at those with overall responsibility for services to looked-after children and care-leavers across the local authority. The NCB also provide information on Delivering the health reforms for looked-after children: how the new NHS will work from April 2013, which summarises the reforms from April 2013 and explains the general and specific duties agencies have in relation to looked-after children’s health.
This web page on the Department for Education's website includes guidance on the key elements of integrated working. It includes a Safeguarding and integrated working factsheet and an Integrated working factsheet. It also includes a link to a document published by the Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC) to define integrated working and illustrate how it is used in children's services: Integrated working explained.
Involving children and young people in developing social care, produced by the Social Care Institute for Excellence, provides social care organisations with a framework for systematically developing the effective participation of children and young people in the design, delivery and review of their services.
The Backing the Future report from Action for Children and the New Economics Foundation demonstrates the economic and social case for developing preventative services and emphasises the need to involve children in this process. Two supplemental guides, A guide to co-producing children's services and A guide to measuring children's services provide information on involving children in service development and measurement.