Quality statement 4: Support to explore and make sense of identity and relationships

Quality statement

Looked-after children and young people have ongoing opportunities to explore and make sense of their identity and relationships.

Rationale

Developing a positive identity is associated with high self-esteem and emotional wellbeing. Life-history work can contribute to this by helping children and young people to explore and make sense of their family history and life outside the care system. Having accurate and up-to-date personal health information is an important part of this and may also be important for the immediate and future wellbeing of children and young people during their time in care and afterwards.

Children and young people have needs and preferences for contact with people they value, for example siblings, who may be an important part of their identity. Good contact management is important for promoting a sense of belonging, positive self-esteem and emotional wellbeing.

Quality measure

Structure:

a) Evidence of local arrangements to offer ongoing activities to looked-after children and young people to explore and make sense of their identity, including their life history and appropriate health history.

b) Evidence of local arrangements to coordinate ongoing contact with people that looked-after children and young people value, including former carers, siblings, other family members, friends or professionals, if this is desired and in their best interests.

Outcome:

a) Feedback from looked-after children and young people that they feel supported to explore and make sense of their identity and life history, including their health history.

b) Feedback from looked-after children and young people that they feel supported to have continued contact with people they value.

c) Feedback from looked-after children and young people that they have a supportive peer network.

What the quality statement means for each audience

Looked-after children and young people are offered ongoing opportunities to explore and make sense of their identity, and are supported to maintain contact with people they value, if this is desired and in their best interests.

Local authorities and other commissioning services ensure they commission services that offer looked-after children and young people ongoing opportunities to explore and make sense of their identity, and to maintain contact with people they value, if this is desired and in their best interests.

Organisations providing care ensure systems are in place to offer looked-after children and young people ongoing opportunities to explore and make sense of their identity, and to maintain contact with people they value, if this is desired and in their best interests.

Social care, education and healthcare staff offer looked-after children and young people ongoing opportunities to explore and make sense of their identity, and coordinate ongoing contact with people they value, if this is desired and in their best interests.

Source guidance

NICE public health guidance 28/SCIE guide 40 recommendations 15, 24, 25 and 46.

Data source

Structure: a) and b) Local data collection.

Outcome: a), b) and c) Local data collection.

Definitions

Carers

Carers include foster carers (including family and friends carers), residential carers and supported lodging providers.

Health history

NICE public health guidance 28/SCIE guide 40 recommendation 21 recommends that early health information is available to enhance life-history work with the child or young person when they are ready, or to help them make informed decisions when they are ready to start their own family.

Social workers should obtain permission to access the child or young person's neonatal and early health information and information on parental health, including obstetric health.

NICE public health guidance 28/SCIE guide 40 recommendation 25 recommends that in life-history work looked-after children and young people have access to as much personal information as possible by promoting ongoing conversations between children, young people and their carers and social workers. This should include discussion about their personal health history and family health history.

Life history

Life-history (or life-story) work includes activities that help a child or young person to create a personal or family history. It can be an organised activity with a person trained to support this type of work, or an informal process reflected in the everyday conversations between carers and looked-after children or young people. NICE public health guidance 28/SCIE guide 40 recommendation 25 recommends that life-story activities are planned and supported using a sensitive approach that focuses on the needs of a child or young person and that information is delivered by a trusted individual known to them in a respectful, sensitive and supportive manner. The guidance recommends that the individual carrying out the activity with the child or young person should:

  • give careful consideration to the timing and person who delivers life-story information and the extent of information given at any one time, according to the developmental stage and emotional needs of the child or young person

  • approach life-story work as an ongoing process rather than a 'one off', ensuring it is reviewed and revisited as appropriate for each child or young person

  • inform, authorise and support carers to answer questions about the personal history of the child or young person, including helping with sensitive or distressing information

  • ensure the inclusion of written information (further detail about written information to include is set out in NICE public health guidance 28/SCIE guide 40).

Ongoing contact

NICE public health guidance 28/SCIE guide 40 recommendation 15 recommends that when a decision is made to separate sibling family groups, social workers should coordinate ongoing contact desired by the child or young person, arranging appropriate supervision where necessary and supporting foster or residential carers. NICE public health guidance 28/SCIE guide 40 recommendation 24 recommends that the significance of losing former attachment figures and relationships where ongoing contact is not possible should be acknowledged.

Equality and diversity considerations

It is important for looked-after children and young people to be given the opportunity to develop their own identity, rather than assumptions being made by those working with and caring for them based on particular characteristics, such as ethnicity, faith or gender. NICE public health guidance 28/SCIE guide 40 recommendation 25 recommends that ongoing discussions to inform life-history work should include culture and faith and sexual identity and orientation.

Certain groups of looked-after children and young people may face additional issues affecting their sense of identity. For example, NICE public health guidance 28/SCIE guide 40 recognises that children and young people from black, minority ethnic and multiple heritage backgrounds, and unaccompanied asylum-seekers, may face racism and isolation that can affect their ability to develop resilience and self-esteem.

Context for this quality statement

This section signposts practitioners to regulations, statutory guidance and national minimum standards for looked-after children and young people that are of particular relevance to the NICE quality statement and its associated measures. As the legislative framework in relation to looked-after children and care leavers is complex and cross-cutting, this should not be viewed as an exhaustive list.