Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Cafcass[1]


  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 their potential.

  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 success.


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 Board Member)

      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 Board Member)

      A young person in care needs access to information about their rights and how to access the services promised to them.

    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 Board said:

    "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. Imagine—we 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 choice.

  "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.

Christine Smart

Children's Rights Director on behalf of The Cafcass Young People's Board

February 2008

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