Progress made, but more to do to prevent children being placed into care

(Title Image: ITV Wales)

Yesterday, Minister for Children & Social Services, Huw Irranca-Davies (Lab, Ogmore) updated AMs on the Welsh Government looked-after children policy – specifically, measures to prevent children being placed into care in the first place.

“Good progress, but more to do”

Thanks to a £9million investment last year, 3,600 have avoided being placed into care (so-called edge-of-care children). The Minister said services for families of edge-of-care children are “popular” and all care-leavers are now provided with a personal adviser until the age of 25.

The Welsh Government now want to focus on preventative measures:

“The third phase of the programme continues much of the important work that’s already in train, but it places more emphasis on reducing the need for care by providing effective, preventative, early support to families, as well as ensuring therapeutic support to children and families is intrinsic throughout the programme. To inform this phase, my officials have carried out an appreciative inquiry across six local authorities. The inquiry highlighted good preventative social work and family support being delivered by local authorities.”
– Minister for Children & Social Services, Huw Irranca-Davies

The Minister announced that £15million of a £30million package included in the 2019-20 draft budget will be given to regional social services partnership boards specifically to keep children out of care.

David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central) – who chairs a Ministerial advisory group for looked-after children – said there was already a lot of good practice and good outcomes approached in a non-partisan spirit. He was particularly concerned about homelessness amongst care-leavers and was pleased work has been commissioned from the Public Policy Institute.

No room for complacency

Helen Mary Jones AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales) was pleased with the levels of progress made and also pleased that there was no complacency on the part of the Welsh Government. She did, however, call for a rights-based approach:

“The statement itself makes no specific reference to taking a rights-based approach to developing policy in this field. It may very well be, Minister, that this is because you’re taking this as read, but given how difficult we know it can be to mainstream a rights-based approach into work with children across the public sector, I would like to give you the opportunity to confirm that the rights-based approach is at the heart of your policy development and your expectations of others….”
– Helen Mary Jones AM

Helen also said she receives a lot of casework involving parents whose children “bounce between birth parents who can’t cope and foster parents”.

Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab, Cardiff Central) told the chamber that at a recent event it was revealed that in one local authority, nearly all of the care-experienced children came from just 10 families, which she blamed on an inability to ensure families don’t have too many children. Jenny also wasn’t impressed by the Minister’s description of edge-of-care services as “popular”; she wants to know if they are effective.

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