The Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) has published it's findings following a national inspection of safeguarding and care planning of vulnerable looked after children and care leavers.
The inspection has identified that despite the hard work of staff too many looked after children feel disengaged from their own planning and review process.
It also said agencies need to work together more effectively as corporate parents if they are to deliver improved and ambitious outcomes for children in care.
The report that is being launched today at an event with Voices from Care and Cardiff University social work students, also identifies there needs to be a change of culture in how looked after children are perceived and supported by society.
The inspection work took place between January and May 2014 in all local authorities in Wales and included the views of 300 children (aged 11+) and care leavers who exhibit vulnerable or risky behaviours. The inspection also took into consideration the views of carers and professionals across both local authorities and partner agencies.
Chief Inspector of CSSIW, Imelda Richardson (pictured), said: "This inspection focused on looking at some of the most vulnerable looked after children in Wales and how local authorities and partners plan their care.
"Staff are working very hard in responding to safeguarding concerns but there has to be a more joined up approach in delivering care plans across all organisations to improve outcomes for children, young people and their families.
"The Social Services and Well Being (Wales) Act will transform the delivery of social care services in Wales. This report now provides an opportunity for the views and experiences of children looked after to inform and shape how the services and support they receive are delivered across Wales."
The report also found:
- Local authorities delivery of corporate parenting priorities remained too narrowly focused on the activities and role of the council’s children social services,
- The growing focus on early intervention to reduce the need for children to be looked after needs to be matched by an enduring emphasis on securing permanency and best outcomes for children already looked after,
- The continuity of social work arrangements for looked after children remained vulnerable to both workforce and competing caseload pressures,
- Despite some very good practice the quality of care plans was variable and often lacked a clear focus on the longer term outcome for the child,
- Agencies took the risks to looked after children and care leavers seriously but more effective coordination of action is needed particularly in relation to managing and responding to children’s own risky behaviours
- Difficulty in securing choice and stability of placements for young people, particularly those with challenging behaviour was identified as a key issue across Wales,
- Looked after children and care leavers continued to face significant barriers across Wales in accessing:
- the range of skilled services able to meet their psychological and emotional health needs
- suitable move on accommodation to enable them to achieve independence
- Despite proactive work by staff and greater access to advocacy, looked after children’s own dis-engagement with the planning and review process was a key concern.
- The effectiveness of existing statutory arrangements for care planning would benefit from review that needs to be undertaken in conjunction with looked after children young people and care leavers.
Responding to the report, a Welsh Local Government Association spokesperson said: “Today’s report recognises the need for a change of culture, not only within local councils and other care agencies, but within wider society itself in terms of how looked after children are perceived and supported.
“Every council in Wales is committed to achieving the highest standards of service for the children in their care, and much is already being done to encourage children to feel more engaged and play an active part in planning and reviewing the care they receive. The report’s recommendations will now be used to develop this work further to help deliver improved and sustainable outcomes for children and young people in Wales.
“Many of the report’s recommendations clearly link to the Social Services and Well Being (Wales) Act, which is intended to transform the delivery of social care services in Wales, especially in terms of ensuring a more joined up approach for care services as a whole. Other recent changes to legislation and guidance such as the Housing Act will also have a positive impact for children and young people in care.”