FCYP and HCAN Policy Committee Update February 2019

The Families, Communities & Young People and the Health, Care & Additional Needs Policy Committees

The Families, Communities & Young People (FCYP) and the Health, Care & Additional Needs (HCAN) Policy Committees met jointly in London on Tuesday 22 January to discuss shared areas of interest.

The group received an update from the DfE on secure children’s homes. The DfE has two distinct workstreams in train, the first is aimed at increasing capacity in this highly specialised area of provision via the funding of upgrades to the existing estate and supporting LAs and regional consortia in Yorkshire, the West Midlands and Greater London to bring forward new provision. The other area of work is the establishment of central commissioning arrangements for welfare beds, similar to the arrangements that have been in place for a number of years with justice placements. The group welcomed both the update and this work noting the consistently high levels of demand for welfare placements as well as the difficulties in building a suitable support package to keep a young person safe whilst seeking a secure bed. The group requested the DfE try and draw health partners in here, reforms to secure justice provision and Tier 4 are also in train so it would be helpful to bring this work closer together to focus less on routes of entry and more on how best to meet children and young people’s needs. It’s also important to recognise the interplay between the demand for secure children’s homes placements and the pressures in the wider residential care market.

The group was then joined by Prof. Judith Masson from the University of Bristol to discuss the research she is leading on regarding the relationship between care, care proceedings and how and when children leave care. For this piece of work Judith worked with several local authorities, linking care data held in children’s services with court proceedings data held by the LA’s legal teams. This proved a difficult exercise as many legal teams do not have uniform case management systems. This cohort analysis could be used to understand the impact of court decisions as well as policy changes e.g. the PLO. The conversation broadened to wider family justice matters and some common issues being experienced across the country to feed into future discussions with government departments and other stakeholders e.g. variation in judicial decision-making, responding to contextual safeguarding risks and sharing good practice. Representatives from Cafcass then joined the group to discuss the development of their future work plan and any opportunities to work together (and with others) on shared areas of interest.

There was a short update on the development of Regional Adoption Agencies (RAAs) across the country, several are now live and a significant number are scheduled to go live in the coming months. Governance arrangements and funding were cited as critical factors to get right by those who are already part of live arrangements, noting RAAs are not an organisation in their own right but a partnership – LAs still retain their statutory duties in relation to adoption. Discussions also touched on the Education Select Committee’s ongoing inquiry on SEND and the impact of the Home Office’s 2017 concordat on children in custody in terms of diverting young people away from police cells.

The FCYP Policy Committee will next meet on Thursday 23 May in London and the HCAN Policy Committee will next meet on Friday 10 May in London.

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