Decision required:

This paper sets out the work being taken forward across government to strengthen and extend corporate parenting for care experienced children.

Cabinet is asked to note the implications of this work programme and what a new approach to corporate parenting can achieve to enable delivery of an improved Wales public sector response to the needs of care experienced children.

Summary

  1. Cabinet is asked to:
    • agree the principle that greater ownership of corporate parenting responsibilities is required across the whole public sector to deliver improved outcomes for care experienced children.
    • note the extensive work programme that is being undertaken to enhance and extend corporate parenting, through positive engagement including the development of a Charter and strengthening relevant statutory guidance.
    • agree that all Ministerial portfolio areas can contribute to a new approach to corporate parenting.

Strategic context

  1. The Programme for Government, Taking Wales Forward, commits to “examine ways of ensuring looked after children enjoy the same life chances as other children and if necessary reform the way they are looked after”. This is reinforced by our national strategy Prosperity for All, with social care as 1 of the 5 priority areas, with actions to:
    • raise the educational attainment and improve the life chances of children in care, adopting a child centred approach, through the collaboration of education, social services and others.
    • strengthen edge of care services to provide families with timely support to reduce the numbers needing care provision and provide assistance in the key transitional phase post 16 to access further education, jobs and housing for all those leaving care.
  2. Improving outcomes for looked after children requires all public services to take ownership of their respective corporate parenting responsibilities – working collectively to safeguard and promote the life chances of looked after children.
  3. We know that children who grow up in care do not do as well in school as many of their peers. Improving educational attainment and providing better integrated support provides a critical foundation for improved outcomes in life chances. We also know that care leavers are at particular risk of becoming homeless and are more likely to have their own children taken into care. Care leavers are expected to become independent and self-sufficient much earlier than their non-care peers, accelerating their transition to adulthood. We must ensure that care leavers have supported accommodation as a platform for independent living and have every opportunity for employment, education or training.
  4. As part of the conversations we have been holding with local authorities to discuss the First Minister’s priorities to reduce the numbers of children in care, corporate parenting and the responsiveness of key agencies including Health and the justice system has been highlighted as a priority.

The current position and the case for change

  1. The concept of corporate parenting - the collective responsibility of all those within local authorities to safeguard and promote the life chances of looked after children - is well established. Section 78 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 imposes a duty upon a local authority to safeguard and promote the well-being of each child it looks after. Under sections 104 – 118, a local authority has similar duties to promote the well-being of care leavers.
  2. The role of a corporate parent is to seek for children in public care the outcomes every good parent would want for their own children. Local authorities in Wales have a legal and moral duty to provide such support to the children it looks after. Elected Members have a responsibility to ensure that children looked after by a local authority are able to thrive, are nurtured, supported, educated and prepared for adult life in the way any parent would want for their own children.
  3. Whilst local authorities in Wales take the responsibility of corporate parenting seriously, it is often seen as a function for children’s social services and elected members, rather than a responsibility spanning the functions of the whole authority. Our policy intent is to strengthen corporate parenting across all departments within the local authority, to enable better partnership working and improved transitions between services provided for care experienced children, in education or housing for example.
  4. Care experienced children also engage with and require the support of a wide range of public services outside of local authorities, in both the devolved and non-devolved sphere – i.e the NHS, the Police and the justice system. We want to widen the concept of corporate parenting across all key agencies that provide services to care experienced children, to instil accountability and ensure care experienced children are provided with the best response and support from these services.
  5. Care experienced children routinely engage with private agencies such as Independent Fostering Agencies (IFAs), Higher Education and Further Education institutions, Housing Associations, Transport for Wales and apprenticeship and traineeship providers. Whilst these organisations will have in place clear vision statements or clearly stated expressions of support for vulnerable groups described in their constitutions, we wish to consult and engage with all partners to identify each organisation’s unique corporate parenting offer for care experienced children.
  6. Through the Improving Outcomes for Children programme, officials across government and partners from other sectors are already taking forward a range of initiatives that will add value to, increase the reach of and help strengthen corporate parenting. Examples are the joint social services and education group exploring the virtual schools model, the joint social services and housing group working to broaden housing provision and types of provision for care leavers and working with health so that children and families have earlier and improved access to therapeutic support.

A programme of engagement and activity

  1. Over the next year, we are embarking on an extensive programme of work and engagement activity to take forward a new ‘refreshed’ approach to corporate parenting. The new approach is about doing things differently and to organisations’ best abilities including the charter referred to below. Whilst other elements will be about strengthening what is already in place by raising awareness and increasing knowledge about organisations’ roles and responsibilities.

Consultation and voluntary charter

  1. In February 2020, we will commence a 12 week consultation to enable a national conversation about the role of public and private bodies in supporting improved outcomes for care experienced children. The consultation will also seek to identify a better and more commonly understood term than ‘corporate parenting’, and what this could mean for bodies outside of local authorities.
  2. We will seek to engage fully with a wide cohort of care experienced children to identify what corporate parenting means to them and their expectations from the services they routinely engage with. Working with this cohort, we will look to co-produce a voluntary Charter that organisations can sign up to setting out their commitment and unique offer to care experienced children. This voluntary Charter will enable all stakeholders, across the public and private sector and the devolved and non-devolved spheres, to sign up to a common statement of improved support and action when working with care experienced children. It is anticipated the Charter will allow signatories to describe how they engage with care experienced children and what they propose to do differently or offer in addition to care experienced children in the future.

Strengthening and extending legislation

  1. To build on the agreements as set out in the voluntary Charter, we will also look to use our existing legislative powers to strengthen statutory guidance, clarifying roles and responsibilities and extending duties across the public sector. This will be achieved by:
    • Developing a new ‘corporate parenting’ chapter within our Part 6 Code under the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014, providing clear statutory guidance to all departments within local authorities about their responsibilities and duties towards care experienced children.
    • Update our Part 9 Code under the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014, providing statutory guidance to Regional Partnership Boards on the issue of corporate parenting and enabling improved partnership working between local authorities and Local Health Boards. A more detailed description of the legal implications of amendments to Parts 6 & 9 are included in Annex A.
    • Seek to embed the concept of corporate parenting beyond that of local authorities. Existing powers are available to us under the Children Act 2004 and Education Act 2002 to develop statutory guidance to embed corporate parenting beyond local authorities. It is anticipated this element will take up to 2 years.

What a new cross government and cross sector approach can achieve

  1. Through our Improving Outcomes for Children programme, Welsh Government is working across government departments and sectors to reduce the number of children coming into care and improve the quality of life, outcomes and experiences of children who are in care. Engagement activity with stakeholders has highlighted the need for strengthened partnership working and greater accountability for the outcomes of children in our care. Members of the Ministerial Advisory Group have been actively involved.
  2. There are key portfolio areas where we can place greater focus on corporate parenting to strengthen responsibilities and raising levels of understanding. This will help unlock and move us forward a range of issues, for example:

Health

  1. Through officials’ recent work with local authorities on reducing the number of children in care, the impact and role of our health partners in outcomes for care experienced children has been identified as a key area of need. Some of the issues raised included:
    • the receipt of therapeutic support for children who have experienced abuse or neglect.
    • the prompt delivery of pre-birth assessments, child health assessments and adoption medical reports
    • a focus on the intensity of intervention and support to families on edge of care or in need of enhanced support
    • improved ‘high-end’ residential care for children with complex needs
    • better sharing of information and learning from good practice
    • developing alternatives to secure accommodation / step-up / step-down services.

Education/ Skills, Higher Education and Lifelong Learning

  1. Evidence shows that children in care do not do as well as their peers in respect of their educational outcomes. A greater recognition of corporate parenting responsibilities within education will help deliver a step change to improve outcomes in relation to educational attainment, opportunities and lifelong learning. For example:
    • an improved focus on the importance of stable school placements, reducing exclusions and delivering smooth and prompt transitions/transfers between schools
    • clarity around the roles and responsibilities of School Governors in respect of their looked after pupils and Looked After Children in Education Coordinators.
    • improved assessment of children with ALN and better access to speech & language support.
    • fairer and more equitable access and improved support for care experienced children in Further and Higher Education.
    • greater opportunity for accessing apprenticeship and traineeship programmes.

Housing

  1. It is important that care leavers are well supported to transition from care into independent living. A range of accommodation options for care leavers is currently available, however there is recognition of the need to ensure these provisions and levels of support are meeting current demand. Additionally, the Welsh Government has been asked by the Children’s Commissioner to deliver better access to safe and secure housing options. Social Services and housing officials are currently exploring with stakeholders what housing provision and support already exists and what more can be done.
  2. Increasing and extending the focus on corporate parenting can help facilitate change and improvement for care leavers. We want to engage public and private residential providers to ensure When I’m Ready is flexible and meets the needs of young people. We want to ensure improved housing support is provided to care leavers to help manage risks and maintain independence. Housing providers must be aware of additional flexibility required to support care leavers when things go wrong, provide alternative options and help avoid unnecessary evictions. We want to ensure this understanding is universal.
  3. Through our Charter, we also want to seek the commitment of the National Assembly for Wales, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, the Future Generations Commissioner, Sports Wales, the Police and Transport for Wales for example.

Impact

  1. By extending corporate parenting responsibilities across the public sector, it is anticipated outcomes will include greater accountability and delivery of:
    • the provision of safe and stable accommodation for looked after children and care leavers;
    • secure, positive educational outcomes for care-experienced children;
    • an increase in the number of care leavers in education, training and employment;
    • ensuring physical, mental health and substance misuse concerns are identified early and addressed quickly; and
    • a reduced number of looked after children and care leavers who enter the youth and criminal justice systems.
  2. From 2021, a national children’s survey will be built into the Children’s Outcome Framework. It is expected the survey will take place every two years and provide a valuable insight into how organisations are supporting and responding to the needs of care experienced children and young people, thereby carrying out their responsibilities as good corporate parents. 
  3. Ultimately, we want care experienced children to feel cared for, well treated and supported by all of the key adults and services across all aspects of their lives. Our approach to extending corporate parenting across all public services is supported by care experienced children themselves. Taking a whole public sector approach aligns with our policy intentions set out in Taking Wales Forward and Prosperity for All.

Communications and publication

  1. Officials are content for this Cabinet Paper to be published within 6 weeks of the Cabinet Paper being delivered. No formal communication activity is planned as a result of this paper. This work is a key strand of work within the Improving Outcomes for Children programme and its Corporate Parenting Task and Finish Group, chaired by David Melding AM. The Ministerial Advisory Group will be kept informed of developments and Cabinet’s actions resulting from this paper.

Recommendation

Cabinet is asked to:

  • note the programme of work that is being taken across government
  • agree that all ministerial portfolio areas can contribute to the new approach to corporate parenting to support greater accountability for the outcomes of care experienced children across the Welsh public sector.

Julie Morgan AM
Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services
November 2019

Drafted by Henry Vaile - Improving Outcomes for Children, SSID
Approved by Albert Heaney (Director, Social Services and Integration) and Andrew Goodall (DG, Health and Social Services Group)

Annex A: statutory, finance, legal and governance matters

Statutory requirements

Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014

The relevant legal framework is that established by the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (‘the 2014 Act’), particularly Parts 6 and 9.

Using our existing legislative powers we intend to revise both the Part 6 Code of Practice and Part 9 Statutory Guidance. Our intention would be to revise the Part 6 Code to include a specific chapter on Corporate Parenting, providing clear statutory guidance to local authorities on how to exercise their corporate parenting duties. This would establish corporate parenting principles upon persons exercising social services functions across all departments within the local authority. This would allow for specific functions to be extended to departments within local authorities that have a direct role in supporting looked after children i.e. education and housing.

The impact and role of our health partners in outcomes for care experienced children has been identified as a key area of need, particularly concerning the receipt of therapeutic support. Part 9 of the 2014 Act provides for partnership arrangements between local authorities and local health boards (LHBs) and enables Welsh Ministers to make regulations which specify partnership arrangements for carrying out social services functions. Under this part, regulations have been made for the establishment of regional partnership boards. There is an option therefore to revise Part 9 statutory guidance to provide specific guidance to regional partnership boards on the issue of corporate parenting between local authorities and LHBs.

Children Act 2004 and the Education Act 2002

Both the Children Act 2004 (‘the 2004 Act’) and the Education Act 2002 (‘the 2002 Act’) support the intention to develop statutory guidance to embed corporate parenting beyond local authorities. Section 28 of the 2004 Act complements the general co-operation duty (prescribed under section 25 of the 2004 Act, which was amended by the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014), to ensure that agencies give priority to their responsibilities towards children and to make arrangements for ensuring that their functions are discharged, whilst having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

The duties of co-operation to improve well-being under section 25 of the 2004 Act includes among others, education, training and recreation, but it does not extend to functions to which section 175 of the Education Act 2002 (the 2002 Act) applies.

Section 175 of the 2002 Act requires a governing body of a maintained school, to have regard to any guidance issued by Welsh Ministers to ensure that maintained schools exercise their education functions with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children; and in respect of governing bodies, that they too must consider safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children who are pupils at the school, whilst exercising their functions in relation to the conduct of the school.

There is an option therefore to issue statutory guidance under both the 2004 Act and the 2002 Act.

Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and Prosperity for All

The Welsh Ministers are subject to the well-being duty in section 3 of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 to carry out sustainable development (as defined in section 2 of that Act). The steps they must make in doing so must include setting and publishing well-being objectives that are designed to maximise their contribution to achieving the well-being goals set out in section 4 of that act and taking all reasonable steps (in exercising their functions) to meet those objectives.

The Improving Outcomes for Children work programme fits within the policy context set out in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 in seeking to make organisations work better together, focussing on longer term outcomes and preventing and intervening early so that looked after children or those at risk of entering care can enjoy independent and successful lives.

The Welsh Language Standards

The revised codes of practice, the new charter and the revised corporate parenting statutory guidance will be available in the Welsh language.

Equality and human rights

The revised codes of practice, the new charter and the revised corporate parenting statutory guidance will be subject to the Welsh Ministers obligations in relation to the public sector equality duty which are to have due regard to the need to:

  1. eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and other conduct which is unlawful under the Equality Act;
  2. advance equality of opportunity for the equality groups protected by the Equality Act 2010 (age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation and marital status); and
  3. foster good relations between the different equality groups.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)

The Welsh Ministers are also obliged to have due regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child when exercising their functions, including when formulating new policies. The revised codes of practice, the new charter and the revised corporate parenting statutory guidance will be drafted in a way which supports promotion of children’s rights.

Finance requirements and governance implications

This paper does not raise any immediate financial implications. The main purpose of the proposals above are to promote a consistent approach to Corporate Parenting across all government portfolios and outside public bodies. For the most part this can be done from existing resources and existing programme commitments. There are a number of ongoing programmes within HSS that already support the development of this work and they will continue to be covered from budgets within the HSS MEG. These include work on developing the Charter, the children’s survey and strengthening statutory guidance. The task and finish group is fully engaged with stakeholders and has representatives from all major public sector partners mentioned above. There is a strong emphasis on using existing resources in better ways to support the aims of Corporate Parenting and the proposals above have been co-produced with members of the task and finish group.

As this cross cutting policy is consulted on and developed, there may well be a need for individual ministers to consider proposals that support the aims of improved Corporate Parenting. These will need to be taken forward in normal way with further advice being submitted to the relevant Ministers, as and when required. This will include the need to consider any potential new costs falling to public services as a result of extending corporate parenting duties as part of the developing work.

A regulatory impact assessment will be published at the point that changes to statutory guidance are finalised and put to the Assembly. Further advice will be issued in due course.

Should any potentially new commitments arise that stretch beyond 2020-21, then the relevant portfolio and MEG would need to include those in their planning for budgets in future years.

Any administrative costs arising from the development of each option can be met from within the HSS Delegated Running Cost Budget.

Strategic Budgeting clearance code: SB0734/5.

Research and/or statistics

Below are some headline statistics about care experienced children in Wales and their outcomes:

Looked After Children Census data:

  • 6,846 children were looked after on the 31st March 2019
  • Around 700 young persons aged over 16 leave care each year, with about a third being aged 18 or over
  • 27% of care leavers moved into independent living arrangements during 2018-19
  • 1,678 children left care during 2018-19, with 47% returning to live with parents or family.

Children Receiving Care and Support Census and National Pupil Database data:

  • During 2017/18, 66.6% of LAC achieved the core subject indicator at key stage 2 and 17.6% of LAC achieved the core subject indicator at key stage 4

Quantitative performance measure data (2018-19):

  • 11.5% of care leavers have experienced homelessness during the year
  • 53.5% of all care leavers are in education, training or employment 12 months after leaving care.

Children receiving care and support in the CRCS Census achieving the foundation phase or core subject indicator and whether they were looked after, 2017/18

Joined up working

The following departments have been consulted on the contents of this paper:

  • Health and Social Services
  • Education Directorate
  • Housing
  • Skills, Higher Education and Lifelong Learning
  • Strategic Budgeting
  • Legal Services

This paper has been cleared by the Minister for Health and Social Services, the Minister for Housing and Local Government and the Minister for Education.