Memorandum submitted by Cafcass
This paper covers issues raised by young people
in care who have received a service from Cafcass. In response
to this Bill young people from the Cafcass Young People's Board
have agreed that I represent their views. This includes considerations
which they feel should be supported through the proposed legislation,
and guidance to ensure that emotional, physical and safety needs
can always be prioritised in the services they receive.
Young Person in Care's Perspective
"I got my laptop from a skip, and since
I got it working with my mates it's given me access to friends,
information and a chance to become interested in thinking about
what I want to do. Now when people give me advice or I don't understand,
I go on the Internet to find out more . . . all children in care
should be given a working laptop as sharing or going to a library
is never easy. Most other kids have one at home and can get to
it more easily".
"If it is a choice between a Nintendo DS
or a laptop, I'll choose a laptop any day".
Educational stability for children in care is
to normalise their experience so that they can feel secure within
their environment and be more able to contribute according to
As part of promoting young people's resilience,
their analytical skills should be developed since they may be
inhibited due to the emotional impact of their early life experiences.
Virtual student support, which includes online
tuition in subjects that young people fall behind on, should become
a standard input offered to every young person.
Support to progress their Maths, English and
analytical skills should be a standard program of online and face-to-face
support available to children in care.
Falling behind in developing these key elements
of learning will reduce the potential of long-term educational
1. Virtual ongoing online support
This can be accessed when young people in care
are most receptive to advice. It has been evidenced that young
people are more responsive and alert in the latter parts of the
day and late evenings.
Access to an online advice service from their
social worker who has access to their computerised record would
be a means of meeting their needs.
"They give you appointments in the morning
and I find it hard to get to them. I'll end up going to the duty
worker but wait ages, and when I get to speak to them they make
promises which do not materialise. So I go again and get to my
worker who says I have not heard about this and I start explaining
my situation again. This can go on for weeks. This happened to
me when I was homeless and stopping at different mates' places".
Young person in care (Cafcass Young People's
It is clearly evidenced that resilience can
only be promoted if young people in care can:
Feel good about themselves.
Trust others, and believe they can
be supported by them.
Have a good support network.
2. Promoting a positive identity and feel
good factor of self
Peer support through forums promoted by councils
along with an online virtual peer service will enable young people
in care to realise they are not alone.
These would also promote positive strategies
for creating self directed support. Such a facility can be overseen
by trained young people who have had past experience of being
in care and are now social work practitioners.
Every young person in care should be offered
independent support and counselling to promote recovery from adverse
early experiences and to help children and young people feel emotionally
strong enough to move on.
Empowerment sessions, self development programs,
issues based group work and self-promoting skills training are
all important in this regard.
3. Access to up to date and accurate information
about the young person
In recognition of changes in social work personnel
it is essential that greater focus and resources are prioritised
to promoting computerised systems to access accurate and up-to-date
information on the young person both by duty social workers and
others who form the team around the child.
In residential care with changing shifts, staff
often don't have access to accurate up-to-date information about
the children they care for. An integrated system of information
that links in all those caring for a particular child is critical
for the emotional and wellbeing of these children, including the
proper focus of care in an emergency.
4. Information to young people
To ensure they know the roles and responsibility
of their team who support and review their Care Plan.
"I never know who deals with what and you find
someone who helps you get it together and explains those who can
help you on specific things. Whilst another worker will tell you,
you need to speak to so and so and they are at this place. So
you go round and from place to place".
Young person in care (Cafcass Young People's
A young person in care needs access to information
about their rights and how to access the services promised to
5. A right to have a meaningful say about
the service they receive
Consultations undertaken by the Children's Rights
Director for England, confirm that young people find it hard to
complain. In recognition of this difficulty in securing regular
feedback from young people, we should promote regular online forums
so that issues of concern for themselves and for their peers can
be shared, supported and followed up.
User forums should be widely available and accessible
and seen as a priority. Evidenced based reports should be available,
demonstrating that the young person's views have been taken into
consideration and have informed changes to practice.
As a signifier that they are genuinely independent,
IROs should be practitioners who endorse the UN Convention for
the Rights of the Child, especially article 12.
IRO practitioners should be chosen for their
skills for proactively championing the rights of a young person
to achieve their best potential and outcome. The role should be
offered to highly skilled practitioners who have demonstrated
child centred practice in their work and are remunerated for the
particular expertise of championing the rights of children. They
should have a fundamental understanding that care planning cannot
be complete without the ACTIVE INVOLVEMENT of the young person
who chooses to do so.
Young people in care from the Cafcass Young People's
"It was important to know how to contact an
IRO easily and those who take these roles on should be properly
trained to understand the needs of young people and who can communicate
with them well".
"The IRO should be committed to making our
plans work and helping others to stick to them as much as possible".
"The IRO should be committed to ensure our
involvement, as the main person affected, asking the young person
their opinions regularly. Discuss the plan with the young person
to make sure they understand".
A code of professional practice for IROs should
form the basis of the current service. This should be beyond mere
GSCC registration confirming status as a social work professional.
A good complaints system should be available
if young people are not happy with the service provided by their
IRO. This information should be given to every young person and
be available to be accessed in different formats.
Young Person's Needs Wishes and Feelings Evidenced
and Updated in Care Planning Processes and Reviews
Young people should be supported and facilitated
to express their needs, wishes and feelings in a meaningful way.
The evidence of this should be recorded in their case file and
a court life record should be made visible. Wishes and feelings
do not go far enough. Young people wish that their views are considered
alongside their analysis of their needs, in the context of the
information they have about their social and emotional environment.
The befriending scheme, which helps young people
build their personalised network of support, is a vital part of
any child's resilience.
Befrienders, mentors, buddies, advocates or
independent visitors should be available from all walks of life,
but specific efforts should be made to link up with large multinational
companies who have a very skilled workforce. Attracting people
who have been successful in their careers could provide inspiration
and promote creativity; which will promote the young person's
perspective in life and better care planning. With an increasing
awareness of various companies' commitment to corporate social
responsibility and accountability, such individuals should be
encouraged to contribute to a young person's care planning.
Children's services should dedicate some energy
to harness contacts from the private sector.
Children's services should work to resourcing
such a practitioner whose primary task would be to link the young
person to strong personal mentors from the private sector to take
on this role.
Young people should be a part of this process
and in identifying who should be significant people to support
them and form the team around them. This should be a range from
professionals, friends and family members who they think could
support them in moving forward.
All good parents are available to meet their
growing and evolving young person's emotional and financial needs.
Many young people make mistakes in managing
their finances and a young person in care does the same.
As one young person in care from the Cafcass Young
People's Board said:
"I bought a fridge and a washing machine
with my leaving care money, then I had to move, but could not
afford to transport it to my mates, so had to leave my washing
machine at the old place. Waiting for another place meant I had
to start over again. This meant lots of long arguments with my
worker that I needed the money to buy more things again. I have
had to get furniture off mates to start again".
This is not an unusual experience and it affects
many of our young people. The difference is that a young person
with family links will get the support to move on to where their
new opportunity of employment or learning is. A young person who
has left care needs to have a link to support them until they
are confident to move onto fully independent living.
Other young people in care from the Cafcass Young
People's Board said:
"Having this support will mean that they
recognise that we all develop at different stages".
"It will give me a chance to concentrate
on building my skills for the future".
"Have enough time to study, without the
fear about being moved around".
"It gives us a better start in life".
"If change is needed, it should be a gradual
process, at the young person's pace with support from their carers,
rather than going from being looked-after to nothing".
"When you leave care you are just pushed
out with £45 a week. Imaginewe have lots of bills
to pay out of that. My own family would not leave me in such a
situation where I have to stress over how I am going to survive.
It is so difficult for me and 99% of young people in care I know
have the same problem".
The support up to 21 is welcomed by young people
in care, but specific practical programmes of support that can
be harnessed by the young person should go with that.
The menu of support should be visible and well
publicised. This support should be based around the needs of the
individual and accessible from a range of providers that they
can choose from. A self-directed approach like that in the adult
social care sector should be a consideration. This maximises choice
of services that they could purchase from the most appropriate
provider. Cost, efficiency and timeliness could be a facility
that young people can also be offered through this extension of
"The new models of practice should include
Social Workers being trained to budget our allocated funds and
in discussion with us help to plan our future needs".
Cafcass has been fully involved in discussions
on various aspects of the Bill with civil servants and we would
be happy to give more specific evidence if the Committee felt
that would be helpful.
Children's Rights Director on behalf of The Cafcass
Young People's Board
1 Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. Back