3 Improving good practice and outcomes |
20. The Care Leavers' Association told us that good
practice exists in caring for children, but it has not been rolled
out. This can be due to competitiveness between local authorities,
but is also because there is not one central point where evidence
is collected and analysed to help inform whether new practices
should be adopted.
The Department admitted that dissemination of good practice is
not as good as it could be although it shares good practice 'when
it sees it'. Ofsted also identifies good practice in the course
of its inspections.
21. In 2014, the Department's launched a £100
million Innovation Programme designed to identify and spread successful
practice. It also told us about an example of where it had imported
evidence-based interventions from the United States like multi-systemic
therapy and multi-intervention foster care, and had tested them
in 70 local authorities. To enable local authorities and their
councillors to question their own performance, the Department
has created an online benchmarking tool-the local authority interactive
tool, which is used by central and local government officers and
Ofsted. It provides access to key data held by the Department
and other government departments about children and the services
provided to them. The tool has on average 1,000 users a month,
but not all will be accessing data on children in care.
22. Ofsted said that the level of educational attainment
among children in care is "shockingly poor", and the
gap between them and their peers is "shockingly wide".
We agree. The Department confirmed that absolute measures of attainment
have improved for children in care, as they have for all children
although the gap between their educational attainment and that
of their peers not in care has not narrowed. At GCSE level, the
gap in attainment was 38% in 2008/09, but was nearly 43% in 2012/13.
But there have been some improvements in absence rates and exclusions
23. To help improve educational attainment, all local
authorities must now have a virtual school head, and the Department
has doubled the amount given in pupil premium for children in
care to £1,900 a year.
The Department has not put in place a system for measuring the
direct impact of virtual school heads.
Instead it intends to rely on data on the educational attainment
of children in care to gauge their impact, and the three-yearly
Ofsted report on how well virtual school heads are performing
in specific local authorities.
24. The most vulnerable children are at particular
risk of becoming victims of child sexual exploitation. The Department
told us that placing children at risk of sexual exploitation in
secure accommodation was a complicated issue as some local authorities
considered that taking away children's liberty to protect them
was not the right answer, while other local authorities think
that it is exactly the right thing to do, In these latter cases
finding a suitable, secure welfare place is inefficient, with
social workers having to telephone around providers in England,
or even Scotland, to find an available place.
25. Ofsted also reported that local authorities spot
purchase placements as and when required, for those at risk of
or subject to child sexual exploitation. As a result Ofsted had
found that children experienced multiple placement moves, due
to poor placement planning and poor commissioning of initial placements
that fail to meet the needs of the young person. By contrast,
the Youth Justice Board commissions places nationally as part
of its secure estate for children and young people remanded or
sentenced by the courts.
26. The Department is now providing an informal clearing-house
facility to identify secure welfare places for children at risk
of child sex exploitation, though it stated that it had no statutory
responsibility to do so. It recognised that it needs to put its
clearing-house on a firmer footing. It told us that it had been
working with the Association of Directors of Children's Services
to develop some form of central co-ordination and whether this
will be run by the Department or another body has yet to be decided.
27. Children who go missing from care for extended
periods of time are the ones who are the most vulnerable and often
get involved in child sexual exploitation. Ofsted told us that
there was either a lack of understanding, or a lack of urgency,
on the importance of having a national register of missing children.
At present the local data that the police hold on missing children
do not always align with what the local authority holds. Ofsted
said that ensuring there was an up-to-date national register of
missing children was a role that the Department should fulfil.
Ofsted inspectors are disappointed to find inconsistent information
on which children are missing when assessing the adequacy of local
systems for safeguarding missing children.
43 Q 12 Back
Qq 139, 152, 159 Back
Qq 140, 146, 190; C&AG's Report, para 1.12; Written evidence from the Department for Education, January 2015 Back
Q 105 Back
Q 97-100, 103-107; C&AG's report Figure 6 Back
Q 157; C&AG's report para 2.13, Figure 8 Back
Q 105, 117; C&AG's report para 2.10 Back
C&AG's report para 2.11 Back
Qq 105, 117-118, 122 Back
Qq 13, 164, 157; C&AG's Report para 1.24 Back
Qq 163, 175; C&AG's Report para 1.25 Back
Qq 171-175 Back
Q 199 Back