Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families First Report

Conclusions and recommendations

Social work services

1.  The pilots need to fill the evidence gap on social work practices. It is vital that they are properly evaluated and that they are not rolled out unless there is clear evidence that they will provide the essential continuity and stability for looked-after children. (Paragraph 12)

2.  We do not see inspection as the answer to concerns about services being withdrawn at short notice by a private provider, as in the case of the Sedgemoor children's homes. We note the Minister's point about Ofsted being the registration authority for homes, but in that case and with the proposed social work practices, it seems to us that contract terms or some other form of regulation would be more appropriate ways of controlling these problems. Throughout our evidence, continuity and stability for looked-after children are emphasised as key, and therefore some sort of safety net is needed. (Paragraph 13)

Support for post-16 education and training

3.  We welcome the Minister's comments that he is giving consideration to increased support for those undertaking other education and training and not just those in higher education. We recommend that a broader bursary system is introduced for looked-after children in post-16 education and training. (Paragraph 18)

Designated staff member

4.  We consider that the requirement that all schools must have a designated staff member with responsibility for the educational achievement of looked-after children is an important statement of intent, and we support it. In particular, we welcome the confirmation that the designated staff member must always be a teacher. (Paragraph 21)

5.  We expect all existing Academies to designate a teacher to have responsibility for the educational achievement of looked-after children. If the Minister's voluntary approach does not result in every Academy making such an appointment we expect him to reconsider his decision to exclude Academies from the legislation. (Paragraph 22)


6.  The Minister told us of his concern that the independent reviewing officer system was not yet working effectively, and the Government acknowledges this in the Bill by making provision for the Secretary of State to establish a body to be the employer of independent reviewing officers to provide greater independence if matters do not improve. The Government needs to be explicit about how it will judge if this change is needed, and how long it will allow present circumstances to continue without perceived improvement. (Paragraph 30)

7.  If the new arrangements for independent reviewing officers do not improve the way the system works, the Government should look again at independent advocacy and whether there is a need to replace the neutral independence of the IRO with active advocacy on behalf of the child or young person. (Paragraph 31)

8.  We welcome the extension of the provision of independent visitors to all looked-after children. (Paragraph 32)

9.  Every looked-after child should have one key individual to whom he or she can turn, and wherever possible the child should be entitled to say which individual should perform that role. (Paragraph 35)


10.  The welfare of a child and his or her ability to thrive must always be paramount, but, given that, we expect the benefits of a placement with family and friends to be considered seriously before other options are chosen. (Paragraph 39)

11.  We acknowledge the Government's attempts to address problems with the original text of the Bill. We recognise that the issue is likely to be a matter for debate once again when the Bill reaches the Commons. We hope that the Government will continue to take the constructive approach that it has done in the Lords when the debate continues in this House. (Paragraph 41)

Post-18 fostering

12.  We note the Minister's outline of what the Government is doing to pilot post-18 fostering arrangements, and we ask him to provide further information about the pilots, where they are being held and the issues that they are designed to clarify. (Paragraph 45)

13.  Given that the opportunity for further legislation is likely to be limited in the near future, we recommend that the Government considers amending the Bill to provide for regulations in respect of post-18 fostering if the pilots require it, following the example of proposals for independent reviewing officers already in the Bill. (Paragraph 46)

Private fostering

14.  The Minister says that he wants more time for the voluntary notification system for private fostering to work effectively. Given the concerns about some of the children in this situation, we ask the Government to give its assessment of the numbers of children in private fostering arrangements, to set out how it intends to increase levels of notification, and to explain its criteria for assessing whether the voluntary system is working or not. The Bill would allow another three years for a registration system to come into being. If it becomes apparent before then that the voluntary notification system is not operating effectively, the Government should immediately bring forward a registration scheme, having put in place the necessary arrangements in advance. (Paragraph 49)

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