Looked after children and young people should be considered ‘one of their own’ by carers, in order to help them to reach their full potential, new NICE draft guidelines say.
The draft guideline recommends that the looked-after person is surrounded by a care network consisting of positive relationships supported by genuine caring – where carers treat the looked-after person as ‘one of their own’. Supporting continuity of relationships with social workers, considering programmes to support mentoring relationships, and providing funding to enable contact with friends are also recommended.
As of 31 March 2020, there were 80,080 looked-after children and young people in England, with abuse and neglect being the most common reason for being looked after. Overall, looked-after children and young people have poorer outcomes in many areas compared to the general population, including mental and physical health, education, and offending rates.
Dr Paul Chrisp, director for the Centre for Guidelines at NICE, said: “This guideline outlines how organisations, professionals and carers can work together to deliver high quality care, stable placements and nurturing relationships for looked-after children and young people. We know that looked-after children and young people are at a distinct disadvantage compared to their peers, and we have a responsibility to try and reduce these gaps and ensure looked-after people have a fair shot at life.
“One of the key pillars of NICE’s new 5-year strategy focuses on reducing health and well-being inequalities, and this draft guideline demonstrates our commitment to working towards a fairer society for all.
“The disruption caused by COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on looked-after young people, so it’s hugely important that the whole system works to restore services and prevent this vulnerable group from falling even further behind their peers. We acknowledge that social care funding is stretched, but we hope this guideline will help practitioners to achieve better outcomes for looked-after young people.”
After initial health assessments when entering care, practitioners should consider whether the looked-after child or young person requires additional specialist mental and emotional health assessments. A range of dedicated and tailored child and adolescent mental health services should be offered to address mental health issues.
The guideline committee noted that many looked-after children and young people also belong to groups with protected characteristics, which can lead to them being disadvantaged in multiple ways. They recognised that meeting the needs of these groups may require additional attention and expertise.
The guideline covers support provided to looked-after children and young people and care leavers (from birth to age 25), and their families and carers (including birth parents, siblings, connected carers, special guardians and prospective adoptive parents).
This draft guidance is a full update to the 2010 guideline on looked-after children and young people, and focuses more on specific interventions needed to help practitioners improve outcomes for looked-after children and young people, as well as how statutory care can be best delivered.
This draft guideline is out for public consultation, which is expected to run until 15 June 2021. You can comment on the consultation here.