HCAN Update November 2015

The Health, Care & Additional Needs Policy Committee met on 17 November. Prior to this meeting, the committee submitted written evidence to the Education Select Committee inquiry into the mental health and wellbeing of children in care. The evidence put forward arguments for a stronger focus on care leavers, the importance of community services in providing early help and the need for timely access to CAMHS and Tier 4 provision. The evidence also referred to the discrepancy in the therapeutic support available to adopted children when compared to the support available to children in other forms of permanence.

At the November meeting, the committee considered a variety of issues within its remit. The committee discussed the current Ofsted and Care Quality Commission (CQC) consultation on local area SEND inspections. The committee was concerned that the scope of the inspection is ambiguous and further clarity is needed on the focus and purpose. The committee stressed that inspection teams must have sufficient experience of the implementation of SEND reforms in order to make a judgement on effectiveness. Concerns were also raised about the proposed five year cycle as this would leave a significant gap between inspections with no mechanism to evaluate progress made during this period. The committee was also clear that, if the inspection team intend to visit a number of settings as part of the inspection, and meet children, young people and their parents/ carers, sufficient notice will be required to put these arrangements in place. This was particularly relevant if inspectors plan to visit children in out of area placements and it was unclear how the inspection team would undertake all the described activity within a five day inspection.

Eustace de Sousa, National Lead: Children, Young People and Families at Public Health England (PHE) attended the committee to provide an outline of PHE’s national priorities and highlight areas of possible joint working. The committee also considered the current situation with regard to unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) arriving in England and how LAs and central government could work together to support such young people.

The committee considered the independent call for evidence as part of the national review of children’s residential care. Although the committee welcomed the review, concern was raised regarding the extremely wide scope. The review will consider a broad range of both regulated and unregulated residential settings, including: children’s homes, secure children’s homes, hostels and supported lodgings, residential special schools, care homes, NHS provision, family centres, mother and baby units and young offender’s institutions or prison. The committee felt it was unhelpful to combine such a broad range of services into one review as each is so different. The committee felt it was important for the review to distinguish between those children and young people who are in public care and placed in such provision, and those who are not in public care. Other areas of consideration should be: the role and capability of the workforce; regulation of residential services for young people aged 16-18; staying put; deprivation of liberty; preparing for independence; and risk and impact of inspection.

Finally, the committee considered a proposal developed by the ADCS Educational Achievement Policy Committee, NCER and Virtual School Heads Network to develop a national dataset to help practitioners at all levels better understand the complexities faced by children in care, while using more effective means to measure the progress and success of this cohort of children. The committee felt the paper would benefit from a stronger reference to the lack of progress many children make prior to entering the care system, taking into consideration both school attainment and attendance.

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