Looked after children sufficiency strategy

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Our aim in producing this Looked After Children and Care Leavers Sufficiency Strategy is to enable the system of support to realise better outcomes for children and young people. We will do this by:

  • Setting-out some of the key things we know about looked after children and care leavers in Surrey, including how many there are and how this might change over time, and what their particular needs might be;
  • Explore what provision we have available in Surrey and elsewhere to meet these needs, the quality of that provision and how much it costs;
  • Understand the connection between our social care practice and demand within the system; and
  • Identify key issues, priorities and intentions for our commissioning

What does sufficiency mean?

Sufficiency really means having enough of the right accommodation and services, in the right places, to effectively support Surrey's children, young people and families. This also includes thinking about the quality of those services and whether or not they are making a positive difference to the lives of children, young people and families. We often call these positive differences "outcomes".

Producing our sufficiency strategy has helped us to better understand:

  • the numbers of looked after children and care leavers in Surrey, the needs they have and how this might change over time;
  • the provision we have available to respond to these needs and how this might need to develop in the future; and therefore
  • the key things we need to focus on together over the next five years.

Purpose

Surrey County Council is legally required to consider sufficiency and the term is defined in the Children Act 89 - the primary legislation in which all children's services operate. The act requires all local authorities to take steps that secure, as far as reasonably practicable, enough accommodation within the authority's area that meets the needs of children that the local authority is looking after.

These responsibilities were further strengthened in the 2004 Act, as follows:

  • "Each local authority has a duty, under section 10 of the Children Act (2004) to decide to promote co-operation with its relevant partners with a view to improving the wellbeing of children in the authority's area."

Aside from being a statutory duty however, we also know that working to secure the right amount of appropriate provision, in the right places and at the right time, makes a massive difference to Surrey's looked after children and care leavers, and is a key part of how we can enable them to achieve better outcomes.

Our current context

In Surrey, at the time of developing our sufficiency strategy (31/03/2020) there were:

  • 2,106 children with active Child in Need plans
  • 694 children with an active Child Protection plan
  • 985 Looked after Children
  • 656 Care Leavers with active Pathway Plans

Whilst there is relatively wide-range of possible scenarios, the middle trend over five years would mean numbers of looked after children in Surrey increasing by around 170 – but this does not reflect the impact we might have by changing practice and provision. This in turn would mean numbers of care leavers are also likely to increase in due course

Our vision for looked after children provision in Surrey

In Surrey County Council, we want to:

  1. Ensure children in care live in family homes where possible. This means;
    • Always enable children looked after to live with extended family or kinship members when possible.
    • Consider foster care as a first option of choice for all
  2. Create more Surrey Homes for Surrey Children. This means;
    • A strong focus on recruiting more in-house foster carers and residential workers, investing strongly in their support and training
    • Continue our capital investment across our residential estate moving towards a model of smaller 'ordinary homes'.
    • Focus on increasing the numbers of our looked after children who are able to live within the county and close to their communities.
  3. Ensure homes are of the highest quality. This means;
    • We recognise that residential care may be a positive choice for some young people
    • We extend our placement options by implementing a robust placement sufficiency strategy
    • We seek to minimise the number of placement moves children may experience, especially those which are unplanned.
  4. Ensure there are a wide range of placements for diverse needs. This means;
    • We strive to place our children with providers rated independently as 'good' or better and minimise the use of unregulated provision.
    • We monitor data and information about our placements at both operational and strategic levels.
    • We commission all placements so that our expectations of placements are absolutely clear – each child will have a placement plan which we will review as part of the statutory review process
  5. Support moves to independence. This means;
    • we expect foster carers and residential homes to provide opportunities for young people to develop independent living skills appropriate to their age and stage.
    • We provide the offer of 'staying put', to young people 18-21yrs old living with foster carers subject to their wishes.
    • Ensuring Surrey's children's homes are able to be supportive of young people leaving their care to 'stay close'.
    • We work with district and borough councils; registered social housing providers and third sector organisations to commission and provide a range of supported, semi-independent accommodation and permanent housing options for our care leavers.'

Key headlines from our sufficiency strategy

  • The population of looked after children in Surrey has increased by just over 20% since 2014/15 in line with national trends. Numbers of care leavers have risen by 11% in the same period (rising to 40% when numbers of unaccompanied asylum seeking children are included)
  • Surrey Count Council continues to make strong use of the external market. The quality of independent fostering agencies (IFA) is generally good with 97.4% of all foster placements made with good or outstanding fostering agencies.
  • External provider placements are also far more likely to be located outside Surrey and further then 20 miles from home. 76% of IFA placements (compared to 7% of in-house fostering placements) are outside Surrey and 84% of external residential placements also meet this criteria.
  • With increasing demand for supported accommodation, and children's residential in county, we need more provision within Surrey borders to support vulnerable children and young people.

What are we already doing to support looked after children (LAC) in Surrey?

To support increases in demand, Surrey County Council have already started to make key changes to service provision and the way we commission.

  • We're reviewing the amount of in-house council provision for children's residential and supported accommodation, so that every child in care feels safe, confident and able to achieve their outcomes
  • We're strengthening edge of care support and contextual safeguarding services through the Family Resilience Model and No Wrong Door
  • We're engaging with looked after children (LAC) to develop provision that best suits their needs.

What do we need to do?

To ensure all our children in care achieve the best possible outcomes in Surrey, we need to:

  • Improve the amount of provision (supported accommodation, including houses of multiple occupancy, residential and independent fostering agency) available in county.
  • Develop Surrey Homes for Surrey Children by strengthening high quality fostering capacity in Surrey, including in-house provision, and through the capital investment programme moving towards a model of smaller 'ordinary homes' accessible across the county.
  • Ensure all children in care are placed in homes of the highest quality – this means striving to use providers rated good or higher in all areas.
  • Develop services informed by the experiences of our children in care, and care leavers. We need to further develop the ways in which we consult and engage with young people about placements and support services, so developed provision meets their needs and takes account of their views
  • Maximise the use of current frameworks when commissioning placements to reduce the number of off-framework placements
  • Improve the proportion of children in care placed within Surrey by developing more local fostering capacity, including in-house, as well as exploring the case for in-house residential and supported accommodation.

Contact us

If you think you could work with Surrey County Council to meet our aims and ambitions for children in care, then we would love to hear from you. Please contact us at cflc.commissioningteam@surreycc.gov.uk.

Our frameworks – provide services for Surrey County Council

Surrey County Council has several different frameworks that providers of services – ranging from social care provision, to SEND provision – can join to provide services to Surrey residents.

If you've read our sufficiency vision and plan for looked after children (LAC), and think you can help improve outcomes for our children and young people, then we'd like to hear from you. Please apply via one of the following links below: