Practice imperfect

30 January 2018: In this week’s news round-up: Wirral’s children lament revolving door of social workers; prejudice and poor practice facing Romani and Irish traveller children; recruitment mismatch conundrum; higher education; adoption

Children unhappy with social work changes Ofsted finds

Many of the children being looked after by Wirral Council had two or three social workers and IROs so far in 2017 and “unanimously expressed unhappiness at the number of changes of social workers and IROs (independent reviewing officers)” they experienced, Ofsted said following a monitoring visit to the council in December 2017. This was Ofsted’s fourth visit since the council was placed in special measures 15 months previously and its focus was on looked after children. “One young person said that they had had 36 different social workers,” inspector Sheena Doyle wrote in her letter to the council. “They described the range of negative impacts on them: they felt unhappy about not being given advance notice of a new worker or who it would be, and said that the new social workers did not always understand their past or what life was like for them.

“Changes of workers meant that there were delays in things happening for them, and understandably, they have become increasingly unwilling to form trusting relationships with another person when they cannot be sure how long they will be their social worker for.” The report also noted that only 50% of children looked after had an up-to-date PEP in November 2017 while increasing numbers of children looked after had been permanently excluded this year. Meanwhile, “Drift in care planning has led to some children ending up in long-term placements by default rather than by good planning.”

Social work prejudice can lead to “coercive practice” in placing Romani and Traveller children in care

The reason for the exponential rise in Romani and Irish Traveller children coming into care was explored in research carried out by Daniel Allen and Sarah Riding in cooperation with the European Roma Rights Centre and the University of Salford. Between 2009 and 2016 the number of Irish Travellers in care has risen by 400% and the number of Romani children has risen 933%. The report suggests that “stereotypical views held by some care professionals are leading to oppressive and coercive practices relating to placement of Romani and Traveller children in state care”. The Guardian’s Emily Goddard delves into some of the human stories behind the figures.

Fostering service recruitment fails to reflect needs of care population says Fostering Network

The Fostering Network highlights the mismatch between foster carer recruitment and the needs of children coming into care in its submission to the Scottish Care Review. Fostering services are able to recruit foster carers “without regard to whether the skills they bring and homes they offer are actually needed for the children currently needing placements, or to whether other carers already exist who could provide the necessary placements”, it says.

“As a result, there is a fundamental disconnect between the supply of foster carers and the demand for their services.” It points out that this is not just an issue at local councils. “Independent voluntary fostering providers can recruit as many foster carers as they like,” it continues. “All recruitment of new foster carers should be targeted to meet needs of the current care population, based on local authority’s needs assessments,” the FN says in its 31 recommendations.

Court of Appeal OKs adoptive placement over family

Meanwhile barrister Emily James reflects in Family Law on the ramifications of a recent Court of Appeal ruling in favour of an earlier family court judgement to place a child for adoption even though there was a viable family placement available. The lead judgement given by Sir James Munby agreed that the child should be placed with an older sibling close in age, who had been adopted earlier.

Care leavers’ later in life pathways to HE ‘must be supported’

Young people who spent time ‘in care’ as children possibly have the lowest engagement with HE (higher education) of any identifiable social group, University of West of England associate professor Neil Harrison reminds us in WonkHE. In his research into care leavers and higher education published last year, Harrison found that 12% of care leavers access HE – double the figure usually quoted which fails to take account of the fact that care leavers access HE later on in life. Nearly a third of those care leavers who did access HE were still there at the age of 23, he found. “There needs to be policy recognition of the importance of alternative entry pathways for care leavers,” Harrison says. “Local authorities must ensure that care leavers are aware of the pathways that exist, even if they are unable to enter Level 3 study at 16.”

Keep up to date with news and information related to fostering via This Week in Fostering on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo by Jordan Whitt/Unsplash

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