Children’s services professionals have been presented with a new 168-page set of guidance for improving outcomes among looked after children.
The joint National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and Social Care Institute for Excellence guidance is expected to be incorporated into the annual assessment frameworks of both Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission.
Headline recommendations in Promoting the quality of life of looked-after children and young people call for better integrated working to create a tailored service for the 60,000-plus children in care.
Particular aims are to boost poor educational performance among children in care, and to provide better access to mental health services.
Former Southwark LBC director of social services Dennis Simpson, who chaired the committee that developed the guidance, said councils should be prioritising the needs of looked-after children.
“If this guidance is taken as a whole and implemented, the all of an authority’s children’s services will improve,” he said.
Mike Kelly, director of public health at NICE said he did not believe that complying with the guidance would cost councils money and that in many cases such good practice was effective early-intervention work.
“We know some recommendations are good value for money in the short term, and others are good value for money in the long run,” he said.
“For example, children in care who are supported throughout education are much less likely to become unemployed in later life.
”This guidance should enable professionals in universal and specialist services to make a real difference to the lives of looked-after children and young people.”
Key recommendations from the guidance include:
- Placing children and young people at the heart of all decision-making that affects their lives;
- Providing a framework for agencies to help them find the information they need to support the particular needs of children and young people, including those from black and ethnic minority backgrounds and asylum seeking children and young people, in a more effective way;
- Providing practical support and encouragement before and during further or higher education so that looked-after young people have the same opportunities to education and employment as their peers;
- Keeping accurate and up-to-date health information and stopping this from being lost in the system by recommending protocols are put in place to ensure that health information follows the child or young person;
- Promoting collaboration between health, education and social care professionals to more effectively collect, monitor and share information and ensure that information follows the child if they move; and
- Ensuring there is an effective and responsive leaving-care service for those preparing for independent living.