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Making plans and decisions for children in care: professionals, parents and young people Jonathan Dickens, Gillian Schofield, Chris Beckett, Georgia Philip.

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Presentation on theme: "Making plans and decisions for children in care: professionals, parents and young people Jonathan Dickens, Gillian Schofield, Chris Beckett, Georgia Philip."— Presentation transcript:

1 Making plans and decisions for children in care: professionals, parents and young people Jonathan Dickens, Gillian Schofield, Chris Beckett, Georgia Philip and Julie Young Centre for Research on Children and Families, University of East Anglia

2 Care planning and review in England An elaborate and highly regulated system – many requirements, inc. a detailed care plan and regular reviews for all ‘looked after’ children, with prescribed matters to be covered, and (since 2004) chaired by an ‘independent reviewing officer’ (IRO) But questions about the effectiveness and independence of IROs New regs and statutory guidance 2010, came into force April 2011 – and new ‘IRO handbook’, expanding their role

3 The reviews After one month – four months – then at least every six months A process and a meeting (or possibly meetings) Child and parents normally expected to attend Carers attend, relevant professionals are invited – e.g. health visitor, teacher, specialist workers Considers a wide range of matters, but notably: – The permanence plan; – Contact; – Health and education; – Is placement meeting child’s needs? – Child’s views, wishes and feelings; – Have agreed tasks been completed?

4 Research questions How are the 2010 care planning regs and guidance being implemented? How effective are IROs in monitoring the plans of the local authority, promoting children's well-being, and managing their participation? What are the overlaps and differences in the roles and responsibilities of those involved in planning for children in care; how are decisions made and disagreements managed? What are the views of children and parents about care planning and review, particularly the IRO?

5 The research project Case file survey in four LAs: 120 cases in all, from three different legal statuses – 40 no court order, 40 in proceedings, 40 on care orders In-depth interviews with the social worker and IRO on half the cases Interviews with parents (15) and young people (15) A multi-professional focus group in each LA (4) Two focus groups with young people National questionnaire of IROs (65), team managers (46) and children’s guardians (39)

6 And we can see the complexities … What is the status of ‘decisions’ made at reviews? LA resources (funding + services) Other agencies/decision-making bodies Time Dilemmas of IROs’ role – to ‘quality assure’ the process and ensure child’s wishes and feelings are considered, but ‘not to manage the case, supervise the social worker or devise the care plan’ The review is ‘the child’s meeting’ – but it has to take place at specified intervals and address a specified range of issues …

7 ‘Where are the key decisions made?’ Answers reflect resources; other bodies, esp. court; time; IRO’s role; and the ambiguities of young people’s attendance I guess there are two processes: there is the LAC process, and then alongside that the organisation review, the financing and funding. And those two aren’t always compatible, and sometimes you have to put up fights and arguments and stuff, and say you don’t agree with this and kind of challenge. So I guess that is just how it is. IRO interview

8 I can’t say, ‘You will spend the money’ that is not within my power to say that, so it was a recommendation rather than a decision. The decision was I suppose ‘to re-start therapy would be ideal’, but the actual decision about doing it remains with the manager who has to spend the money. IRO interview … the LAC review is often a meeting that really isn’t able to make big decisions, it can make small decisions… But the general direction of the case, it is often in court or there are other processes going on where actually it really comes down to it, you know the LAC review won’t be the decision- making place. SW interview

9 Well, sometimes they’re done in reviews, other times actually they’re done outside the review and then may be referred to us for, you know, almost confirmation. IRO interview You can’t help but make decisions in between the LAC reviews … it would be enormously bad practice I would say to wait until you go to a LAC review to then think about making a decision. Because they so far apart you have make the decisions in between, because circumstance necessitates it. So you might get your decisions checked within the LAC review, in that sense do they make decisions - I don’t know, maybe I have contradicted myself. SW Interview

10 It should not ever be the IROs role to formulate a care plan, although sometimes it can feel like that. The LA formulates the plan, which should be shared with the IRO, who may have strong and contradictory views. These things may need further discussion, separate from the child's review, but in my view the legislation is clear. IRO form If I was to say to a social worker, ‘it is not my plan, I didn’t make this plan, you made this plan, but I am reviewing it’, that’s slightly sort of disingenuous … hopefully by consensus you might reach a view that changes the plan … another plan evolves through the reviewing process. IRO interview

11 A more proactive approach, but outside the review … Excellent communication with the social worker when identifying future placements; would accompany social worker to relevant panels to secure funding and support, would conduct her own research to find suitable placements. TM form I take a very active role in ensuring that plans are appropriate and am fully involved in considering alternatives as necessary and proposing these, or challenging inadequate planning as required … I take part in discussions about the case within and outside the normal LAC meetings. IRO form

12 But other views from team managers: Most of the day to day difficulties get resolved without the involvement of the IRO, but in more complex situations the IRO can make a valuable contribution in negotiating solutions. Their independence is an important factor in this. TM form On occasion I have had concerns that the IRO is too involved in formulating plans inappropriately, and I have been clear that this is not their role as they are not the workers’ team manager. TM form

13 Involving children: ‘The child’s meeting’ and/or a ‘planning meeting’? You know, it’s a difficult thing to get that balance right. Because if you just present a rosy view because the child’s there, actually you’re not going to get a proper plan agreed, because you’re discussing things that aren’t correct. But equally, to destroy a child, you know, that’s cruel. SW interview

14 I quite like having review meetings … You see things have got sorted at my review but I just don’t know who sorts them, that’s what is really annoying … it is like there is this door and you don’t know what actually happens behind it, so I can’t really comment on what they do. (17 year old girl, LTFC) I hate LAC reviews, that is the most boring! It is just going over and over the same stuff that you went over last time... It was more exciting right at the beginning when I was in care, it was a bit exciting then because I was like ‘oh I am having a meeting, I wonder what they are going to say about me’. (16 year old girl, LTFC)

15 Summary Care planning and review is a high profile issue, politically and professionally – very high expectations on the process and the workers involved ‘Corporate parenting’ means there are many decision-making settings and levels, with different agencies and professionals involved Roles, tasks and boundaries may overlap – this may be productive, and/or frustrating Involving young people in the reviews requires particular skill and flexibility

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