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HCAN Update September 2015

Over the summer period, the committee contributed to the development of the guidance on local transformation plans for children and young people’s health and wellbeing published by NHS England, ensuring there was a strong role for Health and Wellbeing Boards in the sign-off process for local area plans.

Following the publication of this guidance, DoH has established a Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Oversight Board to oversee progress in this area of work. ADCS has been invited to be represented on the Board and the ADCS President and Mark Carriline (DCS, Bury) will attend.

The last meeting of the Health, Care & Additional Needs Policy Committee was held on Tuesday 15 September at Kensington Town Hall. A representative from DfE attended the meeting to discuss the current call for evidence in relation to special guardianship and regional adoption agencies. The discussion on special guardianship included:

  • Reasons for the increase in SGOs such as: development of a sequential approach to care; the judiciary’s approach to adoption as a last resort where ‘nothing else will do’; the lowering of the threshold for approval of SGOs and the increasing use of supervision orders; and, the increasing use of restorative practice and family group conference
  • The changing use of SGOs, such as with younger children and where there is no established relationship between the child and potential guardian
  • Timescales for the assessment of potential special guardians must be appropriate and allow for a comprehensive and thorough assessment of both the child’s needs and the parenting capacity of the potential guardians, particularly where there is no established relationship
  • The support available to children subject to special guardianship orders as a result of public law proceedings and their carers should be in line with that available for adopted children and their adoptive parents
  • There should be no hierarchy of care and for some children, a SGO is absolutely right and the most appropriate option to meet their needs.

The committee then discussed the recent developments in adoption and the opportunity for local authorities to submit expressions of interest in establishing regional adoption agencies. It was acknowledged that a driver of this policy was market consolidation, however the committee expressed some concern at the potential impact on small and specialist voluntary adoption agencies and the possible loss of expertise from the sector. The committee also stressed the challenges of planning such large scale change when the number of children approved for adoption is decreasing. DfE explained
that there has been a varied take up of the Adoption Support Fund (ASF), with six local authorities having made no claim to date. Regional Adoption Leadership Boards will receive data on take up of the ASF via their ALB Sponsors. At present, projections suggest that the ASF will be under spent. It is
important that local authorities are effectively using this fund to ensure a strong argument can be put forward for the continuation of post adoption support.

Following this, committee members welcomed representatives from NHS England and DfE to discuss Care and Treatment Reviews (CTR) and young people in 52 week placements. NHS England provided a helpful re-cap on the work done to date in the development of CTRs for children and young people in assessment and treatment units (ATU). The group agreed that, although information has been disseminated regarding CTRs, it would be helpful to circulate this again to remind colleagues of the importance of engagement in the process. It was also agreed that further work needs to take place to provide reassurance about the effectiveness of review for young people with learning disabilities in 52 week residential school placements. The working group established to look at these issues meets again in November and will consider how best to take this work forward.

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