Meeting the challenge of COVID-19: Examples of frontline practice in caring for children and young people

Across Scotland many people are continuing to support children, young people, and their families during this time, adapting in order to respond with care and protection where this is needed.

Through the use of creativity, compassion, and communication, we have seen alternative and new ways of working, innovative ideas, and people coming together to help to sustain relationships and offer some stability for young lives during these uncertain times.

Through a diverse range of examples of how people are meeting the challenge of responding to the effects of this public health emergency, we hope to record, reflect on, inform, and inspire others about the impact that these are having in the lives of care experienced children and young people, and all those who work and volunteer across public and voluntary services to support them.

The examples have been divided into eight themes which are identified beneath each contribution.

NEW: Meeting the Challenge: Supporting kinship families

NEW: Meeting the Challenge: Supporting kinship families

4359.png How a creative project found alternative ways to connect with families during COVID-19

What was the challenge faced?

The Creative Kin project provides free, fun activities for families in North Ayrshire with children under five in kinship care.

Children 1st, in partnership with arts and early years organisation Starcatchers, planned to launch the Creative Kin project in 2020. When the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions made the project’s planned focus on group activities impossible, the team, Lead Artist Kirsty Pennycook, musician and actor Harri Pitches, and Project Coordinator Anna Downie, had to rethink their approach for identifying and engaging with kinship families.

What change in practice took place?

The Creative Kin team had to find a way to identify families while they weren’t able to meet them in person because there were no existing relationships with families. Many kinship carers, who are often grandparents, didn’t feel comfortable or confident using digital technology, and young children don’t always engage with or understand video calls in the same way older children might. To make contact with kinship families who might be interested, Creative Kin joined some of North Ayrshire Council’s Kinship and Early Years social work team meetings, and their Health Visitor team meetings.

In response, to what they heard, Creative Kin created themed activity packs for families during the lockdown restrictions in autumn and winter 2020. Many families said that they were looking for reasons to get outside because they were not leaving the house regularly during lockdown, so the packs were designed to be used inside or outside, and to encourage families to go outdoors together. Kinship families sometimes include a number of sisters and brothers across a wide age range, and the packs are also designed with this in mind. They include materials and suggested crafts children could do together, for example a kite-making kit which could be decorated by younger children and put together by older ones, and homemade bubble mixture with the materials to make bubble wands and create giant bubbles for all.

Creative Kin began to offer doorstep performances this spring (2021) so that families could see them face-to-face, within the lockdown restrictions. As music is something most people can understand and relate to, and can be interactive but not too overwhelming, with less pressure to get involved, they devised the ‘jukebox’ concept, with a musician playing songs for the whole family, and giving children buttons to pause, play, skip, and decide on the speed and volume. After some trial performances in Glasgow, the team found that younger children just wanted to press the buttons and also struggled to keep a distance, so they were provided with their own silent buttons or musical shakers so they could take part, and a team member who wasn’t part of the performance wore a mask so the children could safely approach her.

Who was involved in making the change?

The Creative Kin project is a collaborative project between Starcatchers and Children 1st, so the project team (a project coordinator, artist and musician) was able to problem-solve with and draw support from both organisations. North Ayrshire Council also linked the team up with social work and health teams that could refer kinship families to them.

What difference did this change make?

Visiting separate families and engaging with them on their doorstep has helped the project to reach more families than it may have otherwise. Some parts of North Ayrshire can be difficult to reach by public transport, so visiting families, rather than asking them to travel, shows them what the project offers and creates interest in attending future sessions. The team were also able to involve families who aren’t online and who may have felt isolated during lockdown.

Creative Kin plans to continue offering one-to-one visits when first seeking out kinship families to offer their support, even after restrictions ease and the originally planned programme of group activities begins – such as a superhero-themed pizza party scheduled for the summer. They hope that this will be helpful for families to bring them together with others and join in group activities.

Date June 2021

 

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Meeting the Challenge: Creating new ways for identifying family support needs during COVID-19

Meeting the Challenge: Creating new ways for identifying family support needs during COVID-19

4359.png How one school in Dundee adapted its programme of support for children and their families

 

What was the challenge faced?

The Addressing Neglect and Enhancing Wellbeing (ANEW) programme, delivered by CELCIS, aims to work alongside local authority areas to develop a consistent approach to practice to ensure that children and their families get the support they need at the earliest opportunity.

Since 2016, CELCIS has worked alongside Dundee City Council to build on and strengthen child and family participation. One example of this what is known as ‘the buddy system’. Where there are concerns around a child and a family may be in need of additional support, the coordination of a multi-agency plan is required, and a ‘Team Around the Child meeting’ (TAtC) is arranged at the child’s school. Parents and children also have the choice to attend and participate in the meeting, and are supported through a trained ‘buddy’, a designated adult who can help represent their views. If the parents and child choose not to attend, the buddy can still meet with them beforehand and then contribute to the meeting on their behalf. This ensures the views and needs of the child remain central to the meeting, and that the child’s plan is developed and agreed to by everyone involved, including the parents and child.  

Camperdown Primary School in Dundee chose to introduce this new practice and it is now part of the core methods of support offered to families. However, in the spring of 2020, the closure of many school buildings under the first COVID-19 lockdown meant that families, children, and agencies involved were no longer able to come into school for meetings. The school needed to devise new ways to ensure the agreed child plans could continue to be progressed, and families could still fully participate in meetings, and access the support needed. 

What change in practice took place?

In place of face-to-face meetings, telephone conferencing was used to ensure the participation and engagement of children, parents, and the multi-agency partners involved. The child’s plan would be read out loud, discussed, and agreed to by everyone taking part in the call. If the parents and/or child chose not to attend the meeting, and the buddy attended and represented their views, immediately following the meeting the Buddy would talk through the plan with the parent and/or child to ensure their views were fully represented, and they were in agreement with the plan; though so far at Camperdown all parents involved have chosen to attend the meetings. A copy of the plan was emailed to everyone involved.  

The Chair of the meeting (usually the Head Teacher of the school), ensured everyone, particularly the child and their family, or their buddy, had an opportunity to share their views. At times, additional support was offered to families with this through existing relationships; for example a Health Visitor supported a mother at home to use the telephone conferencing system, enabling her to fully participate in the meeting.

During the course of the pandemic, the school also realised that many of the families most in need of support were new to the school staff working with them. As a result, additional measures were taken to build relationships with families and ensure the right support was provided to meet their needs at the earliest opportunity. For example, the family support worker within the school offered weekly one-to-one socially-distanced walks with parents. This supported the nurturing of existing relationships and the development of new ones.

Who was involved in making the change?

Once the lockdown restrictions came into force, Camperdown’s Head Teacher and the School and Family Development Worker came together to find new ways to engage with families to ensure meetings still take place. Consulting with staff members from across the school helped with the adjustment to this new way of working.

What difference did this change make?

The various engagement activities offered have helped to build positive relationships between staff and families. For example, during the one-to-one walks, parents started to feel comfortable enough to open up about their feelings and share information about their home circumstances. This has helped staff to gain a better insight into the support they and their children could benefit from, and this can be built into their plan.

Some parents and children have relayed that participating in meetings held over telephone conferencing has made them feel more confident about speaking and sharing their views. After the few years of holding face-to-face meetings, the preference from some families to engage in TAtC meetings using teleconferencing has meant that the team are now looking to offer this to families as an option to engage in future meetings, should this better meet their needs.

More information 

Nicola Weryk, Head Teacher at Camperdown Primary School: nweryk474@dundeeschools.scot

Date March 2021

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Meeting the Challenge: Protecting children’s learning and development during COVID-19

Meeting the Challenge: Protecting children’s learning and development during COVID-19

4359.png How increased play ensured children at Harmeny Education Trust felt safe and secure during a time of instability

 

What was the challenge faced?

When schools closed during the first lockdown in Scotland, the staff, teachers and management at Harmeny Education Trust, a grant aided special school with accommodation for children and young people with complex social, emotional and behavioural needs, had to think differently about learning to ensure the valuable relationships they have with their children could be maintained and continue to flourish. Harmeny currently cares for 22 children on a residential basis and 6 children who attend as day placement pupils. Harmeny provides a care and education setting for those children 365 days of the year. It was therefore imperative that all the children in their care felt secure and safe while things in the outside world were so uncertain, and too much change would raise anxiety levels.

Any changes in learning and teaching, and routines, were tailored to the individual needs of the child. Staff knew which children would flourish in cottage, who would benefit from online learning, and who was most vulnerable to the changing circumstances.

What change in practice took place?

Children began to be taught in the cottages where they live instead of their normal classrooms, with teachers and educational support staff allocated to a single cottage to reduce the risk of spreading any infection. The children within each cottage vary in their ages and so this was the first time they would be learning together. This had a positive impact on their confidence as older children began to help the younger ones.

Harmeny is surrounded by 35 acres of woodland and this was used for outdoor play, managed by the care and education staff across the site. During a normal school year, day and overnight trips are organised and these still happened, but in the surrounding woodland. This meant that the children could go camping and attend 'forest school', experiencing all the opportunities these bring including personal development and help to build self-esteem – it all just took place a little closer to home!

A second playtime was introduced into the afternoon of the school day, which meant time spent indoors was broken into smaller chunks and was more focused, and play became much more integrated into learning. Go Karts were purchased to support this additional play, with driving tests and licences put in place for this activity to make it a life skill activity for the children. The Scrapstore Playpod was able to open and this involved the children playing creatively with junk objects.

Separately, a combination of online learning from home or blended learning with on-site learning at Harmeny was provided to day pupils depending on each child's needs. It was important to keep relationships between pupils and their peers and pupils and staff strong during this time so staff also went to their homes of pupils and accompanied them to local parks to keep within lockdown rules. Online weekly get-togethers with all children were established, and charitable fundraising kept friendships connected between the cottages and with the wider Harmeny family and gave the children an insight into helping others less fortunate than themselves.

Who was involved in making the change?

Harmeny gathered the thoughts and ideas of children and their families to inform the thinking and planning by staff, teachers and managers. Learning is tailored to individual needs as much as possible and decisions are geared around the needs of each child and everyone involved in their care has a say, including the child.

What difference did this change make?

Using the countryside setting to learn outdoors meant that children were not in the same place all the time. The additional playtime was so successful in reducing 'cabin fever' during the school day, and this is remaining in place.

The Harmeny annual Christmas show which brings excitement and anticipation also brings increased anxiety for some. This year it was recorded and watched online, and this was felt to reduce stress levels and enable all children to watch this together.

More information Mandy Shiel, Head of Education, Harmeny Education Trust, email: mandy.shiel@harmeny.org.uk

Date: March 2021

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Meeting the Challenge: Shaping up new ways for young people to be ‘together’ during the pandemic

Meeting the Challenge: Shaping up new ways for young people to be ‘together’ during the pandemic

4359.png How young people, supported by East Renfrewshire’s Intensive Support Service, went beyond online participation to connect

What was the challenge faced?

When lockdown was announced in March 2020, the Youth Intensive Support Service at East Renfrewshire Council and the Champions Board, which creates a platform for care experienced young people and key people within the council to become champions for change, mobilised quickly to offer support online for the young people aged 12 -26 using the Youth Intensive Support Service, a statutory Social Work Service for young people who are in the need of intensive support, as well as those receiving a Continuing Care and Aftercare Service. As the global health emergency continued, it became apparent that while online has a place, it could not fully replace face-to-face meetings and the young people began to share that they felt something was missing. The Intensive Support Team also knew that some young people living alone were feeling isolated, not leaving their home for weeks, and so they were concerned for their wellbeing, and they noticed that for some of the young people, they were tending to disengage and the usual connectedness was slipping away.

What change in practice took place?

Initially online group work began to take shape quickly in spring of 2020, and a separate mini CHAMPS group for the younger age group was established. This was to ensure immediate support and connection with workers and peers in a safe way, while the Government advice was to stay home. Articulate Cultural Trust, which creates projects, classes and courses for groups and individuals to explore and expand their horizons through the arts, worked alongside the young people using mind-mapping techniques to hear their ideas and develop programmes to suit their interests, such as an online sculpture group, and photography sessions.

However, once young people indicated that they were missing face-to-face contact with their support workers, and as initial restrictions began to ease, one- to-one meet ups were put in place for open spaces, following social distancing guidelines.

In East Renfrewshire, there is usually a summer programme of activity for care experienced young people however this year the programme was extended and there were activities running every day – all taking place safely outdoors in a local park. Young people could dip in and out of activities they had an interest in, such as yoga, graffiti art, fishing, football, and comedy workshops. The Mini Champs produced a film in the park which premiered online in December 2020. The staff offered group support during the summer programme, so that young people had a number of workers around them, and the connections enjoyed previously began to evolve and thrive again.

Who was involved in making the change?

The Intensive Support Service and Community Social Work Team at East Renfrewshire Council, the Champions Board, Mini Champs, participation groups, and Articulate, all came together to make sure that new ideas could be person- centred and involve young people decision-making about the types of activities they could take part in.

What difference did this change make?

Using a participation-based approach, a full and varied programme of support evolved. As the weather began to change and nights got colder in the autumn, outdoor walks with a coffee or hot chocolate, or doorstep conversations became more prominent. During Care Leavers’ Week in October 2020, everyone had pizza delivered to their homes along with a cold weather goodie bag containing socks, a blanket, hot chocolate and other self-care items. Many of the supported young people spend Christmas together, so the local theatre was used to watch a Christmas film safely. Work is now underway to put together an Easter programme. Relationships have strengthened and connectedness has been maintained during the pandemic, and wellbeing and the mental health of the young people has been at the forefront of the activities and programmes offered.

More information Amanda Reynolds, Advanced Practitioner- Champions Board, Youth Intensive Support Service, East Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership Amanda.Reynolds@eastrenfrewshire.gov.uk

Date: February 2021

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Meeting the Challenge: Using technology to increase family participation in schools during COVID-19

Meeting the Challenge: Using technology to increase family participation in schools during COVID-19

4359.png How one school adapted its programme of support for parents, carers and pupils going from primary to secondary school. 

What was the challenge faced?

The Parents in Partnership (PiP) programme, developed by CELCIS in 2015, aims to improve and enhance parent and carer engagement with high schools, to help increase children’s attainment at school. In 2017, CELCIS worked with North Ayrshire Council to implement the programme in some of its schools, including Auchenharvie Academy.

Auchenharvie Academy has developed its programme and this is now built into the ‘business as usual’ support they offer to assist parents with the transition of pupils going from primary to secondary education (P7 to S1). Typically, the programme involves parents and carers coming into the school to visit the campus, to meet with teachers and get involved with various activities, including taking part in sample lessons to get a flavour of what S1 pupils experience at school.

In the spring, the closure of many school buildings under the first COVID-19 lockdown meant that parents and their children weren’t able to come into school to take part in these transitions so Auchenharvie Academy needed to devise new ways to ensure that transition support could still be offered.

What change in practice took place?

The original PiP programme had only involved some families who had been identified from the school community. This year, with all parents and carers needing to stay away from schools under the COVID restrictions, it was thought that all parents and carers might benefit from this programme to help their children to adapt to the change in circumstances, so all parents and carers of P7 pupils and current S1 families were contacted and invited to take part.

Instead of physical meet ups, support through online channels, including social media was provided. But for some parents and carers, access to and knowledge of IT was limited. Some didn’t have access to home computers and were wary of using new technology. So staff at Auchenharvie Academy asked parents and carers which online channels they would find the easiest and most convenient to use. They did this through surveys, group calls, phone calls to families and social media polls. Overwhelmingly, families preferred using Facebook as they were familiar with the platform and could access this through smartphones and computers.

Information videos about the transition from P7 to S1 and introductions to the team were recorded by the staff, as well as a virtual tour of school. School-related activities were set for families to do together, including TikTok challenges, sports and drama challenges, and an online rocket launch held by the Science Department. For P7 parents and carers, a virtual coffee and cake get together offered the opportunity to ask questions and ‘meet’ other families from the five associated primary schools.

Since returning to school, staff have continued to upload information videos on topics including music, drama, arts and PE, and on health and wellbeing; and regular online chats and catch ups with parents have continued.

Who was involved in making the change?

Once the lockdown restrictions came into force, Allison Hopton, the Music Teacher and Principal Teacher of Family Learning at Auchenharvie Academy, and Laura Booth, the Principal Teacher of Transitions, recognised that they were facing similar challenges in how to continue participation support for children and families so came together to work new ways to do this. They consulted families and other staff to ensure that what could be offered instead was informative, engaging and offered the support needed.

What difference did this change make?

After the first few online videos were released, parents and carers got in touch to report that they enjoyed not only interacting with the pre-recorded material, but having the freedom, convenience and flexibility to watch (and re-watch) this when they wanted, rather than having to be somewhere at a certain time. For parents in the original format of the programme, shift-working patterns and caring responsibilities sometimes meant that they couldn’t attend some meetings.

Since establishing the Parents in Partnership programme in 2017, and following the shift to virtual contact during COVID-19, many parents and carers have also reflected that interacting on social media and through email can feel less intimidating than face-to-face meetings and phone. There had been a perception that school contact was only associated with negative reports around things like attainment and attendance, and parents had felt disengaged and demoralised. The support now offered through online channels, coupled with online videos, virtual events, and interaction with teachers, has helped to create more positive relationships between parents and the school.

More information

Allison Hopton, Music Teacher and Principal Teacher of Family Learning at Auchenharvie Academy: gw08balmerallison2@glow.sch.uk

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Meeting the Challenge: Creating continuity and positive relationships to support education through lockdown

Meeting the Challenge: Creating continuity and positive relationships to support education through lockdown

4359.pngHow East Park used their relationship based practice to help pupils to continue to learn and grow


What was the challenge faced?

When the COVID-19 lockdown came into force in Scotland in March 2020 and school buildings were closed to most children, teachers, care workers and parents at East Park - a Glasgow-based charity that provides education and supported accommodation to children and young people with additional support needs, including autism - were concerned that a lack of structure and routine would have an adverse effect on their young people. About two thirds of the pupils attending school at East Park live on-site, who learn alongside day pupils who live at home with their families and travel to the campus for classes.
It was feared that children who live in East Park’s houses and day pupils who usually attend the onsite school could feel isolated under the lockdown.

What change in practice took place?

East Park’s educational support staff were redeployed to support the staff in the residential houses to help young people with the non-classroom based learning packages created by East Park teachers. This was the first time education and residential staff had worked so closely together, and created a new, unique partnership and collaboration.

The teachers worked online and also visited families of day pupils to make sure they didn’t feel isolated. The school began holding online assemblies and music sessions; residential houses were able to tune in together, and day pupils could take part and interact in a safe space from their own home with a support worker alongside them at home. This was important to help the young people join in and integrate in their own terms as support staff could adjust surroundings to suit the young person’s needs, for example changing the audio volume on computers, and environmental conditions such as temperature and lighting.

After careful planning, East Park was able to provide some face-to-face teaching to its day pupils too who came into school two at a time, two days per week. This was a lifeline to many families, as digital learning does not suit every child and had been a change to their established learning environment and routine.

Returning to a school routine after school holidays can usually be quite challenging for the young people at East Park, and there’s a need to re-engage pupils and settle them again. After the disruption of lockdown, staff were concerned about the impact of the summer break. It was decided that the school should stay open over the summer to offer some structure to the young people. This was achieved by a staggered holiday rota for teachers instead of the usual long summer break, so that teachers were always available, and without incurring extra staffing costs for local authorities. Continuing classes during the summer made the return to full-time schooling much smoother and less disruptive, and improved relationships between everyone.

Who was involved in making the change?

Staff across the charity were involved in responding to the challenge. East Park set out clear intentions so everyone understood and felt empowered to adapt to what needed to be done to achieve what was needed and the families were able to input into the into changes and adaptations throughout.

What difference did this change make?

Using a relationship based approach, the charity was able to support staff to feel safe and empowered to make decisions and this helped sustain their relationships with the children they care for and teach.

Having seen the improvement in behaviour and relationships by keeping the school open over the summer break, the school is now considering providing a holiday club.

It became obvious quite quickly that some aspects of digital interaction work well for some young people but not for others. For example, for young people with sensory challenges, this can be overwhelming. East Park is currently considering how to use the learning from this experience and is working with another school for pupils with additional support needs to run music sessions together.

More information

Catriona Campbell, Head of Education, catriona.campbell@eastpark.org.uk
Geraldine O’Neill, Head of Care Services, geraldine.oneill@eastpark.org.uk

Date: November 2020

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Meeting the challenge: Bringing school counselling and mental health training online during lockdown

Meeting the challenge: Bringing school counselling and mental health training online during lockdown

4359.pngHow Place2Be provided children and young people with mental health training online during lockdown

 

What was the challenge faced?

UK mental health charity Place2Be provides mental health support services for pupils, their families and school staff. This is usually done through one-to-one and group counselling, guidance sessions and training programmes. The charity also delivers professional training for people looking to become child counsellors.

COVID-19 and the resulting lockdown with school closures meant that Place2Be’s usual face-to-face sessions in schools had to be reimagined.

What change in practice took place?

To be able to continue supporting the wellbeing of the children and young people the charity supports, its frontline mental health professionals started offering phone support sessions for young people receiving one-to-one counselling in person, and to the parents/ carers of younger children they were supporting. These sessions were used to stay in close contact with families and to check in and direct them to extra support if they needed it.

A survey of more than 2,600 11-18 year olds, which the charity undertook last year, had already shown a wish for more online support as well as face to face counselling. The charity decided to partner with two leading providers of digital mental health services to offer free online counselling and an interactive self-help app. Young people aged 10 or over at Place2Be schools can now access these resources when and where they need them.

The charity also fast-tracked plans to move some of its training for school staff online. Through its partner schools, it offered a pilot digital version of its Mental Health Champions – Foundation programme to over 3,300 teachers and other professionals working with children.

Who was involved in making the change?

Teams across the charity from Safeguarding to Operational to Legal and Compliance, and Research teams worked together so that a decision could be made to move to telephone-based support based on the demographics and needs of the people it supports.

The Mental Health Champions foundation programme involved working with teachers and other staff at partner schools to collect feedback through the digital pilot before expanding the scheme.

What difference did this change make?

Families and children who were supported by the charity during lockdown have reported that they found the telephone contact invaluable and appreciated this continued connection.

Matthew, 16, said: "It was so good to know you were there for that phone call each week, even though the chaos of lock down. I had my parents to talk to, but they were going through their own stresses so knowing that there was someone who cared and would listen really helped me during that time", and Louise, 9, said: "Talking to Place2Be during lockdown helped me feel less worried and calmer".

Feedback from the Mental Health Champions programme pilot scheme and evidence of the need meant that Place2Be was able to secure funding to offer the training to 50,000 teachers for free.

93% teachers and school staff who participated reported that they have changed their actions, behaviour or attitude in the classroom as a result of something that they learned on the course, improving their skills and confidence to support positive mental health in school communities as pupils start to return after the lockdown. The digital format of the programme also makes the training more accessible for remote and rural locations in Scotland. One class teacher in Scotland said: “I've been working with children for 30 years, and I’ve never seen so many young children with mental health issues, especially anxiety. The training on this programme was fantastic, and it really helped me personally too.”

More information

Jacqueline Cassidy, Place2Be Director (Scotland & Wales), scotland@place2be.org.uk

Date: September 2020

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Meeting the Challenge: Setting up school ‘hubs’ at the height of the lockdown restrictions

Meeting the Challenge: Setting up school ‘hubs’ at the height of the lockdown restrictions

4359.png Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland explore how establishing school hubs has provided early lessons for collaboration and change

 

What was the challenge faced?

In response to COVID-19 all local authority early learning, childcare, and schools in Scotland were closed from 20 March 2020, the exception being the creation of local hubs to provide provision to vulnerable pupils and children from key worker families. These ‘hubs’ were strategically placed within each local authority area and were open to pupils from primary to early secondary years, with specialised provision also available for early years pupils who were vulnerable or children of key workers, and pupils with additional support needs.

As the lockdown and closure of schools came about very quickly, local authorities had to establish the hubs at a fast pace and in a way which catered to the needs and circumstances of the different pupils who were still coming to school. For children and young people, as well as teachers and school support staff, this new model of ‘schooling’ was also going to feel very different to what they were used to, and they needed to be supported to deal with this change. As part of a programme of research and intelligence gathering, researchers at Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland (CNS) – an academic and public policy partnership in Scotland - in collaboration with the University of Glasgow’s Network for Social and Educational Equity and Policy Scotland, collected the views of those involved in setting up and running the hubs to capture information about the experience.

What change in practice took place?

To best understand how local responses were working in a rapidly changing context, and provide insights that could support the next phase of COVID-19 action at local and national levels, the researchers spoke to a number of people with different responsibilities in making the hub provision work, including staff in a local authority education service, an education and families manager, teachers and senior managers. Different local authorities opted to go about this in different ways. Some worked with private or third sector organisations, others fostered closer collaboration between primary and secondary teachers, and some started to mix activities that were usually offered during typical school hours (run by teachers) with those usually held after-school (run by community learning and development, librarians, active school and after school workers). This diversity in provision meant that children and families in different areas experienced different levels of access to hub activities and services. The activity in hubs was also outwards looking, and often went beyond the provision of childcare. For example, children and young people designed PPE for NHS workers and created community art for the local hospital.

Who was involved in making the change?

The design and delivery of the hubs was driven by individual local authorities to meet the needs of their local populations.

What difference did this change make?

All the participants who helped with the research said that the speed at which the hubs and new ways of working were established during an unprecedented time should be celebrated, and that there are lessons to learn here regarding change processes and the associated bureaucracy.

The creation of the hubs at a very rapid pace required local authorities to find new collaborative ways of working quickly. The research found that the successful operation of the hubs relied, in large part, on both new and strengthened working relationships across different sectors and organisations in the public and third sector: it was felt that that COVID-19 had “forced the agenda” of collaboration in local authorities and challenged siloed ways of working. Because of the range of pupils required to still attend school during the lockdown, the focus of the hubs on childcare rather than learning led to the design of creative solutions to engage the children and young people who attended. As a result, participants said that they had seen higher levels of engagement than was expected from some children and young people in these circumstances.

The learning from the new set-up and running of the hubs offered an opportunity for change. This may include, for example, exploring opportunities for teachers to work across school and sector boundaries more consistently. There may also be an opportunity to think differently about the design of curriculum and where new or different learning opportunities might be incorporated.

More Information

Researchers: Christopher Chapman, Alison Drever, Kevin Lowden and Joanne Neary. For comments, feedback and further information please contact Professor Christopher Chapman chris.chapman@glasgow.ac.uk

Date: August 2020

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Meeting the Challenge: How a local children’s club took on new challenges during lockdown

Meeting the Challenge: How a local children’s club took on new challenges during lockdown

4359.png How the Ghillie Dhu Crew in North Ayrshire have kept spirits up during COVID-19

 

What was the challenge faced?

The Ghillie Dhu Crew is a group set up in 2017 for children permanently fostered care in North Ayrshire, to provide an alternative to organisations such as Brownies or Scouts which can sometimes feel challenging to young people with care experienced. The Ghillie Dhu Crew is a safe space for children aged 5-9 and 10-14 to attend a club once a week where their needs are understood. When Scotland went into lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic, those who run the Ghillie Dhu Crew were seriously concerned that the connections and relationships made through the group could be lost during lockdown and this would be detrimental to some of the children.

What change in practice took place?

Within a week of the lockdown being announced, the Ghillie Dhu Crew moved online by using an app to connect both adults and the children they care for. A programme of themes was established, chosen by the facilitators and based on suggestions from the children. Every day the Chief Ghillie Dhu, Katie (one of the young people who has been volunteering with the group since pre-lockdown), provides a short video of herself setting different challenges and arts and crafts projects for the children to do at home. The challenges use everyday household objects so no shopping is required. This way of working has been so popular that adopted parents and children in the area, who heard about the group through word of mouth, have also been invited to take part.

One of the challenges set by the facilitators and presented by the Chief Ghillie Dhu, was to something to lift spirits in the local community. The children were given a card that they wrote a personal message on and produced Hug Bugs - a small wooden heart with “hug” on it that could be hung up – and together with a poem and a handwritten note, these were distributed to elderly or isolating and shielding people in North Ayrshire. To date 94 Hug Bugs have cheered up local residents, while the children had great fun focusing on the task and talking about what lockdown meant for other people.

Who was involved in making the change?

North Ayrshire Council funds and operates the Ghillie Dhu Crew, and the Hug Bugs project involved the Community Led Action & Support Project (CLASP) to reach those who could benefit from this small gesture to make them smile.

What difference did this change make?

This has helped to engage, entertain and distract children during lockdown, with them learning, connecting and taking on new challenges. The children look forward to the daily challenges along with regular video summaries and updates on the week’s activities, which go online on Saturday mornings – and if this is ever late, the children start to message asking where the next instalment is! Parents and carers also enjoy spending time on these projects with the children, and they have created a separate online group where they can share achievements, worries and concerns during these unprecedented times. The Hug Bugs project has also helped the children to connect with others in the community and many recipients wrote back to the children - “Just to let you know, I received my card with message – sending you a hug, from a little bug – I was quite impressed. When you stay by yourself (especially during lockdown) you do feel lonely at times, but knowing that someone or ones are thinking of you, makes a big difference. So thank you, keep up the good work.”

More information: Pamela Adrain and Joanne Howieson Social work assistant and Social worker padrain@north-ayrshire.gov.uk joannehowieson@north-ayrshire.gov.uk Phone: 01294 310300, select options (4) followed by (1)

Date: August 2020

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Meeting the Challenge: How the COVID-19 lockdown changed the way a group of care experienced young people are leading change in Aberdeen

Meeting the Challenge: How the COVID-19 lockdown changed the way a group of care experienced young people are leading change in Aberdeen

4359.png How Aberdeen City Champions Board has evolved as it responded to the pandemic restrictions

 

What was the challenge faced by Aberdeen City Champions Board?

The Aberdeen City Champions Board, which brings together care experienced young people with their corporate parents, has been meeting quarterly since its inception. Although the number of young people on the Aberdeen City Champions Board has grown to eight, the number of professionals who attend meeting often still outweigh the number of young people, leaving some young people sometimes feeling that these occasions can be intimidating. When Scotland entered into lockdown, this current way of engaging could not take place and ‘ACE’ (Aberdeen Care Experienced), a group of young people who influence and engage with the CHAMPS Board, suggested changing the format and frequency of the meetings in news ways to meet the needs of the young people and include their voices.

What change in practice took place?

The Who Cares? Scotland Development Officer, who works in partnership with Aberdeen City Council to ensure that the voice and influence of young people is at the centre of the Champions Board, discussed this with the young people and asked them what they wanted and needed. Overwhelmingly, they said that they wanted the meetings to continue and suggested an online get-together, which would be smaller and more focused. They suggested it would be best hosted on a particular online platform. Because some of the professionals were unable to access this platform through their work equipment, they were asked to consider whether personal devices could be used as a temporary measure. Also, a limit was placed on the number of professionals who would attend in order to ensure more equitable balance. The new meetings were developed to include a social aspect, so pizzas were ordered for young people to eat with their friends online during the meetings. There have also been cookery lessons. The Development Officer cycled to the homes of all young people and delivered a bag of ingredients so that they could all follow an online demonstration, make a dish at home and then eat together online. Through a live online session, a local police inspector showcased a vegan meal, and the Chief Officer of Housing prepared ‘mac ‘n cheese’.

The meetings are continuing online and centre on key themes which are either chosen by the young people or, at times, by the corporate parents, which the young people can then approve. Issues have included education and housing, and, where relevant, council and partner colleagues are invited to answer any questions and to address concerns and uncertainties the young people may have.

Who was involved in making the change?

The young people involved in ACE are leading the changes in format and frequency, with the support of Aberdeen City Council, and the Who Cares? Scotland Development Officer, as well as other local corporate parents.

What difference did this change make?

Participation of young people in the CHAMPS Board meetings has considerably increased as lockdown continued. The young people have found these themed meetings to be much more productive since moving online and this model will now continue into the year ahead. Young people in Aberdeen have also commented that the support they have received has made a significant difference to them during lockdown. This feedback is central to a report being considered by the council which is looking at recommendations for furthering strengthening the inclusion of young people, well planned and ongoing communication, and the need for joined-up services.

More information: Peter Melrose, Development Officer, Participation and Engagement, Who Cares? Scotland, pmelrose@whocaresscotland.org .

Date: August 2020

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Meeting the Challenge: Young people connecting with each other through digital quiz-nights

Meeting the Challenge: Young people connecting with each other through digital quiz-nights

4359.png How the young people at Aberlour came together during lockdown

 

What was the challenge faced by Aberlour?

The COVID-19 lockdown has posed many challenges for the young people in residential care at Aberlour, including feelings of isolation and loneliness. The requirement to change and relax some of the formal processes they were used to, and the closing of schools, has led to a lack of structure and some young people have been struggling to cope.

What change in practice took place?

John*, a care experienced young person, contacted the Rights and Participation Officer to say he was feeling bored and lonely and could he start an online quiz between the eight houses Aberlour runs across Scotland, from the Highlands to southern Scotland. This idea was floated with the adults in all houses and then all the young people were asked if they would like to take part via video conferencing - and the idea took off. John wrote the first quiz entirely on his own, and the prize for the winner was the opportunity to produce the next quiz. As the young people from across the houses became more involved and started to take the lead, other events were suggested and introduced including a talent show, karaoke, and a TikTok dance night. When the school summer holidays officially began, the young people suggested having a ‘show and tell’ event where they would bring a meaningful object along to discuss, to demonstrate how they are coping during lockdown, including talking about their highlights and the struggles. This took place at the end of June.

Who was involved in making the change?

This initiative continues to be led by the care experienced young people who suggest the ideas, with the residential child care workers and the Rights and Participation Officer working with them to help facilitate and encourage what they want to do. The IT department is involved to ensure connectivity for all those wishing to take part and providing access to the platform.

What difference did this change make?

A real sense of belonging is growing across the community of young people who are connecting in a way they never have before. When one young person moved houses, the quiz was like a reunion and she stayed on the call afterwards to show her new room to her friends. Staff have reported deeper and stronger relationships with the young people, partly due to the increase in time spent together on the quizzes and events, and partly due to home learning as schools remain closed. These online events have boosted self-esteem and confidence as young people come together to perform in a talent show, or work together on dances. Two young people who felt that they could neither read nor write became confident enough to read the questions at one of the quiz nights. Seeing the adults and children ‘cooried in’ (snuggled) on a Tuesday night ready for the quiz has been described as similar to watching an episode of the television series Gogglebox!

More information Andy Finlay, Admissions and Programmes Manager, Aberlour Sycamore Services, andy.finlay@aberlour.org.uk

Date: August 2020

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Meeting the Challenge: Creating new ways for the care experienced community to connect and be supported during COVID-19

Meeting the Challenge: Creating new ways for the care experienced community to connect and be supported during COVID-19

4359.png How three new digital services were introduced by Who Cares? Scotland for care experienced people across the country

 

What was the challenge faced?

As the UK and Scottish Governments started imposing wide-ranging lockdown restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Who Cares? Scotland, a national membership and campaigning charity providing independent advocacy for Care Experienced people, started receiving a number of emails, phone calls and social media messages relating to concerns about increased social isolation, financial hardship, insecure housing tenures, mental health worries, and disconnection from family, friends and other important relationships from many within the community.

What change in practice took place?

Having heard the worrying concerns from care experienced people, Who Cares? Scotland took immediate action and introduced three distinctive services available to care experienced people across Scotland. Firstly, a new Helpline was opened. Originally supported with a rota of over 50 members of staff, open seven days a week and available on the phone or through email, this provided emotional and practical support for care experienced people and their kinship and foster carers, including grocery shopping and help with housing issues and financial concerns such as phone top-ups, bills and rent support. At its peak, the helpline staff were taking over 30 calls a day with many lasting over two hours. The range of issues raised were so diverse that it often required liaising with the policy, advocacy and employment teams. As the impact of the public health crisis became more severe and several of the organisation’s events were cancelled, including its Summer Camp, attended by over 100 care experienced people each year, Who Cares? Scotland decided to trial something online instead and came up with the idea for a Digital Festival. Over 30 unique opportunities were developed for young people to engage with and nurture a sense of belonging with the wider care community. It was something the community could look forward to during lockdown and it attracted interest from almost 200 care experienced people from age eight to over 50, from all walks of life. Delivered over three days in May, the festival increased participants’ sense of inclusion and strengthened their relationships with each other. At the same time, through the helpline and the advocacy relationships, the organisation recognised that, at times, emotional and financial support was not enough. Some care experienced people needed additional support. So, at the beginning of May, a new counselling service was made available to connect care experienced people with a qualified counsellor or psychotherapist (of their choice) who was registered with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. All therapists specialise in different areas, so, consistent with a trauma-informed approach, each person has a choice in who and what works best for them.

Who was involved in making the change?

Recognising the devastating impact of Covid-19 and hearing harrowing stories of care experienced people not being able to provide food, pay for electricity and bills, for the first time in its history, the Who Cares? Scotland Board agreed to change their services over the immediate terms to provide a new response. When it was recognised what kind of support would be needed, including that the impact of COVID-19 was having a negative impact on people’s mental health, the organisation worked with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, Youthlink, Youth Scotland, and national policy makers, third sector organisations, local authorities, independent artists, tutors and therapists in Scotland, to ensure the level of support provided was evidence-led and shaped by good practice.

What difference did this change make?

Since the lockdown began nearly 800 children, young people, their families and adults have been supported via the helpline and nearly 100 care experienced people have been referred to counselling. While the lasting impact of COVID-19 is still to be evaluated, the Who Cares? Scotland’s experience has suggested that connection, practical support and a counselling service have become a lifeline for many care experienced people struggling in these difficult times. The organisation has further developed its helpline service, which now provides advice on rights, entitlements and emotional support to care experienced people while still serving as a source of connection for the care experienced community.

More information Maciej Alexander, Impact Measurement Manager, malexander@whocaresscotland.org

Date August 2020

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Meeting the Challenge: How young people spread kindness and positivity in their community during COVID-19

Meeting the Challenge: How young people spread kindness and positivity in their community during COVID-19

4359.pngHow young people at Rossie Young People’s Trust helped their local community to feel more connected during lockdown

 

What was the challenge faced by Rossie Young People’s Trust?

Rossie supports 10-18 year-olds who have been exposed to multiple adverse childhood experiences, through residential care, secure care and specialist intervention services. Like many care providers, the COVID-19 public health emergency meant Rossie’s campus had to make adjustments which had a major impact on young people’s day-to-day lives. This included being unable to do outdoor activities, visit home, or see family and friends face-to-face, and, during school hours and in their free time, only being able to spend time with those they live with, no other young people from the campus. This meant a new way needed to be found to support the young people and provide some positivity during these uncertain times.

What change in practice took place?

Through workshops, young people were given the opportunity to learn more about COVID-19 and how to keep themselves and each other safe. Using questionnaires, staff asked the young people about their thoughts on the impact of lockdown and what could be done to help them through the pandemic. Many of the young people said they would like to contribute to the community initiative ‘Simmer Doon Soup’, in Montrose, Angus, which was giving out kits of soup ingredients and recipes to vulnerable local people in need during lockdown. The young people made ‘compassion bags’ to be given out with the soup kits. These included treats and activities, from home baking to VE Day recipes, ‘cups of tea in a bag’, and wildflower seeds for people to plant. They enclosed information about Mental Health Awareness Week, lockdown poems and Pride posters, and also added small gifts to cheer people up, including crafts such as peg people, stained glass windows, badges, and rainbow bracelets and drawings. These items were decided through discussions between the young people and staff as everyone wanted to ensure the bags had items that would put a smile on people’s faces. Young people freshly baked the goods in their Home Economics kitchen working alongside staff. They may well be some potential ‘Great British Bake Off’ stars of the future! Young people also wrote letters to vulnerable people which were delivered alongside the bags to the local doctor’s surgery, sheltered housing complexes, family and friends, and to the neighbours of Rossie staff who are vulnerable or self-isolating.

Who was involved in making the change?

Voluntary Action Angus supported Rossie by collecting the young peoples’ compassion bags and delivering these to ‘Simmer Doon Soup’ and Montrose Community Trust to be distributed within the local community. This came about as one of the members of staff, Jan, made contact with Voluntary Action Angus, who then connected her with ‘Simmer Doon Soup’ to begin the initiative. Montrose Community Trust then noticed the work on social media - they were running a similar project and shortly afterwards a partnership was created so both organisations could all work collaboratively to support the local community.

What difference did this change make?

As well as having something to do to take their minds off the pandemic, being able to spread kindness in this way helped young people to feel more connected, and that they were making a difference to others during the lockdown. One of the young people said:

“As a kid at Rossie I think it’s such a lovely idea especially with COVID-19. I loved feeling like I’ve made a difference to someone’s day especially when people are feeling lonely right now. Love A xox”

The vulnerable people that Rossie’s young people wrote to would not otherwise have had any regular human contact during this time, and the letters were so well received - several people have written back and phoned to thank the young people, as well as posting supportive messages on social media sites. Now the young people are being included in plans for a local soup kitchen, which is a community led initiative in partnership with Montrose Community Trust, Simmer Doon Soup and Volunteer Action Angus. Rossie is currently in discussions about the development of this project, and young people will definitely play an active part in ensuring its success.

More information Jan Philip, Throughcare Worker: jan.philip@rossie.org.uk

Date: July 2020

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Meeting the Challenge: A residential practitioner steps in to provide a temporary home

Meeting the Challenge: A residential practitioner steps in to provide a temporary home

4359.pngHow a residential practitioner at Glasgow City Council offered a young person a place to stay so she could take up a new job

 

What was the challenge faced?

COVID-19 has caused disruption to many aspects of our daily lives. During the height of the lockdown restrictions, 17 year old Daisy*, who lives at the Monreith Road Care Home for children and young people, secured a new job at an elderly care unit. While she was excited to start, during the induction she found out that a number of residents at the elderly care unit had tested positive for COVID-19, and some had sadly already passed away. It became apparent that working at the unit would be high risk both for her and for the other children and staff at Monreith Road, some of whom had underlying health conditions. A risk assessment was carried out and it was determined that there were two options: either Daisy would have to forgo her new job or she’d need to move into alternative accommodation temporarily; for example her own flat, or a Bed and Breakfast. However, there were concerns that independent living at this stage wouldn’t provide the additional support she needed.

What change in practice took place?

A Senior Residential Practitioner at Monreith Road, Lesley, stepped in and offered Daisy a temporary stay in her home, which only she lives in at the moment. After getting initial agreement from senior colleagues, an assessment was carried out with Lesley. Daisy was also overjoyed by the offer and made it clear it was her preferred choice. Before she moved in, Lesley adapted her home so the correct PPE was in place so that they could both adhere to Scottish Government guidance. Lesley and Daisy both had a COVID-19 test to ensure neither tested positive for the virus, and have continued to do so regularly. Once Daisy was in and settled, she was able to start her job and benefit from Lesley’s additional support and help in adjusting to her new routine.

Who was involved in making the change?

A residential practitioner providing a home for a child or young person, albeit temporary, is not usual practice, and decision makers had to be involved and consulted to consider Daisy’s best interests. The Head of Service agreed that the proposed plan could be taken forward. References were provided by other practitioners, a social worker carried out an assessment and a decision-making panel was held with Lesley, Daisy’s link worker, a retired social worker, a team leader, an assistant service manager and a representative from Barnardo's. Although some were concerned about how unusual this situation was, the panel came to unanimous agreement that this would be the best way forward in the circumstances.

What difference did this change make?

Lesley’s offer of a nurturing home environment and constant support has had a huge impact on Daisy. She was able to settle in her new job quickly and has now passed her probationary period and has a permanent contract in place. She has also started her SVQ2 qualification. With Lesley’s support, she now has a stable routine in place and has also started opening up and talking about her own past. Lesley has received great support from her colleagues, both practically and emotionally. She has been able to adjust her start and finish times when she is supporting the young person and they check in regularly to see how she’s doing.

More information Lesley McGlone, Senior Residential Practitioner, Monreith Road Care Home for children and young people.

Email: lesley.mcglone@glasgow.gov.uk

*The young person's name has been changed to protect her privacy.

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Meeting the Challenge: Involving young people in COVID-19 Route Mapping

Meeting the Challenge: Involving young people in COVID-19 Route Mapping

4359.pngHow the Good Shepherd Centre involved young people on their Covid-19 Route Mapping

 

What was the challenge faced by the Good Shepherd Centre?

The COVID-19 lockdown changed the day to day lives of young people at Good Shepherd Centre (GSC), a secure close support and semi-independent living service for vulnerable young people. Just as for everyone in Scotland it meant many restrictions, so fewer freedoms and choices than usual within the context of secured and close support care. To keep everyone safe in their care houses and school GSC introduced physical distancing and smaller learning groups. This meant young people not being able to spend time with friends from other houses on campus, the school day was shortened and there were additional pressures from living and learning alongside the same group of young people for an extended period of time.

What change in practice took place?

As always, the GSC team were determined to listen to and learn from young people in their care. During May and June, like all children’s services, GSC managers had to keep pace with the continual national guidance and COVID-19 updates. They recognised that young people may be feeling powerless and found ways to both inform young people and help them make sense of Scotland’s Route Map, Through and Out of the COVID-19 Crisis. Staff worked alongside young people to develop a survey about the negative and ‘silver linings’ aspects of the COVID-19 situation for them and followed this up with a second survey about what was most important to young people for Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Route Map. The majority of the young people took part. Key things young people wanted to see happen as quickly as possible were in person family visits to the centre, and being able to have a haircut and they had ideas about how this could happen safely. The feedback was fully taken on board and incorporated into GSC’s own Route Map, including arrangements for outdoor family visits in the gardens and sports pitch, and the safe re-opening of the on-site hair salon.

Who was involved in making the change?

GSC staff worked alongside the Pupil Council to develop the initial survey about COVID-19 impact and invited all young people to take part. There was a very high completion rate, because the young people involved as Pupil Council representatives encouraged their peers to have their say. The School managers, Education and Care teams all worked together; as they have done throughout the lockdown, to plan, risk assess, and practically prepare for family visits and the salon re-opening. Engaging and accessible information was developed including information leaflets and films. These were produced collaboratively with young people and remotely edited by the film-maker who works with GSC.

What difference did this change make?

By involving young people closely in developing the GSC Route Map, there have been some really important opportunities for learning and developing understanding. Conversations have reflected on lockdown, public health, social and physical distancing and the impact of what is happening in the world. This is important to help young people make sense of what’s happening outside of the GSC environment for their own families and the wider community. Most importantly, young people have had a sense of agency and influence in shaping GSC’s own Route Map which has an impact on how they live and learn at this time.

More information

Find out more about the GSC Route Map approach and Covid-19 Resilience from: Alison Gough, Director alison.gough@goodshepherdcentre.org.uk Kenny Collins, Head of Education Kenny.collins@goodshepherdcentre.org.uk

Date: July 2020

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Meeting the Challenge: Using technology to increase participation in care planning during COVID-19

Meeting the Challenge: Using technology to increase participation in care planning during COVID-19

4359.png How local authorities have moved care planning online and increased participation from carers and young people

 

What was the challenge faced by CELCIS and local authorities?

The government lockdown restrictions in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency meant that the regular physical face-to-face meetings which are part of care planning, permanence planning, and decision-making for infants, children and young people, could no longer take place. There was an important recognition that stopping meetings altogether would risk longer periods of waiting and uncertainty for children in care and so that would not be acceptable. Many of the local authorities and agency partners involved in the Permanence and Care Excellence (PACE) programme with CELCIS – a quality improvement programme aimed at ensuring children have a settled, safe and permanent place to live as quickly as possible – recognised that changes in the usual practice would need to be made quickly to adapt to these new circumstances.

What change in practice took place?

In place of physical, face-to-face meetings, telephone and digital technology has been used to ensure the continued participation and engagement of children, families, carers and agencies. Some local authorities have been able to implement this new way of working quickly and effectively, meaning no formal reviews of children’s care plans or approval panels have been cancelled. In another local authority area, there were concerns that, for example, adoption panels using telephone conferencing for the approval of prospective adopters could be unnecessarily daunting for the prospective adopters themselves. By testing different techniques and approaches, and collecting feedback from all participants at pre-meetings and debrief meetings, a new process was identified to help prospective adopters feel more at ease with communicating with the panel virtually. Now, this area sends prospective adopters an introductory video, a biography and a photograph of each panel member in advance of the online video conference to ensure they feel informed and supported.

Who was involved in making the change?

The PACE delivery team within CELCIS supported some local authority teams that are already part of the PACE Programme to apply quality improvement methodology to new, innovative ways of working. Areas worked to use evidence and data they could readily collect to further develop changes in practice, with the aim of ensuring key feedback from children, families, carers and practitioners was captured.

What difference did this change make?

One local authority noted that the use of video conferencing for one decision making panel had resulting in a 100% attendance rate from carers, as opposed to an average of a 33% attendance rate when meetings took place face-to-face. Full participation in physical meetings has been challenging in the past for a number of reasons, including geographical constraints (long travel times and public transport limitations), which have also impacted on family-friendly working practices. The gathering of this data, further evidenced by positive feedback from participants, has led this local authority to determine that meetings are more effective and inclusive in this format and so this approach will now continue post-COVID-19. One young person noted that they felt able to attend the review meeting of their plan for the first time as they felt more comfortable doing this by telephone, and with the support of a trusted professional, rather than attending face to face. This was another new development: although children and young people have always had the option to give their views before a review of their care plan, they now have the option to share their views and participate during the review via telephone, rather than attending in person, which can often feel daunting. This local authority is now strongly considering how they could continue to offer participation via telephone and video conferencing to enable children and young people to participate fully in these crucial meetings about their care plans.

Date: July 2020

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Meeting the Challenge: COVID-19 and supporting care leavers

Meeting the Challenge: COVID-19 and supporting care leavers

4359.png How Dundee City Council increased contact with their young care leavers whilst keeping them safe

 

What was the challenge faced by the Throughcare and Aftercare Team at Dundee City Council?

Normally the team is based in Dundee City Centre, so much of the work involves face-to-face meetings with young care leavers and those transitioning from care to independence. Soon after lockdown in Scotland was announced it became apparent that the team could not provide the level of service that the young people needed and deserved entirely through phone calls or online. Some young people said they were really missing human interaction. The team worried about the potential for deteriorating mental health, increasing substance misuse, domestic abuse, financial difficulties and increased risk-taking behaviours. The team wanted to find the best way to increase contact while keeping young people and staff safe.

What change in practice took place?

The lockdown changed and restricted the structure and routine which many care experienced people value in their daily lives; whether through further education, work or access to services. It was noted that for some this led to sleep disruption, changes in peer groups, lack of routine and other unsettling changes. The Throughcare and Aftercare team began receiving calls and social media messages more often in the late afternoon and evening. In order to support the young people when they were accessing the team, the working hours of the Duty Line were extended to 9am–9pm Monday to Friday and weekend afternoons. This was promoted on social media. The team delivered food parcels, supermarket vouchers, sanitary and contraceptive products, and money for gas and electricity directly to young people rather than other services doing so. Staff went with young people on socially distanced walks to encourage the government-advised one hour a day of physical exercise and offer direct interaction while discussing plans and support.

Who was involved in making the change?

The Throughcare and Aftercare Team has listened to the young people throughout lockdown and responded to their needs. The team worked within the Council to lead on this support for care leavers and develop stronger working relationships with other teams and services. In crisis situations, resources and information have been shared more efficiently to respond quicker. Also a multi-agency group was formed in response to an escalation in adolescent substance misuse under lockdown. Representatives from the Children & Families Service, substance misuse services, antisocial behaviour team and supported accommodation in the group aim to build a current and accurate picture of substance misuse trends and keep relevant teams educated and informed so practice can change in line with need.

What difference did this change make?

By finding new ways to support care leavers in Dundee, the team has provided stability during a period of great uncertainty. Maintaining safe but necessary face-to-face contact has been so important to the young people. As well as providing a listening ear, the team has been able to identify crisis and help young people stop risk behaviours escalating. The young people have responded particularly well to the socially distanced walks and said they enjoy getting out for exercise. Many said it was easier to talk about things that are affecting them rather than in the usual office setting which can be more intense. The team is keen to build on this learning.

More information

Ailsa Deasley, Team Manager, Throughcare and Aftercare Team, Dundee City Council. Telephone: 01382 438657, Email: movingon.team@dundeecity.gov.uk

Date: June 2020

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Meeting the Challenge: Exam assessment in the time of COVID-19

Meeting the Challenge: Exam assessment in the time of COVID-19

4359.png How Edinburgh's Quality Improvement Team is helping teachers to assess care experienced young people's work

 

What was the challenge faced by City of Edinburgh Council?

There is an existing need to maximise and raise the attainment of care experienced young people in senior phase within the City of Edinburgh Council education area, while the COVID-19 public health emergency has seen a model of certification based on teacher assessments of level of achievement put in place instead of the 2020 exams. The official statistics show that the number of care experienced young people put forward for qualifications at SCQF5 and above, and their results, are much lower than that of their peers. The local Quality Improvement Team hope to establish if this is based on teachers having lower expectations of these students and if, as recent research shows , there is any evidence of an ‘unconscious bias’.

What change in practice took place?

The Quality Improvement Team is acutely aware that due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, qualifications in senior phase this year, and possibly next year, are now dependent on teachers submitting estimated grades based on the evidence available to them. The team is currently analysing data from the last three academic years to compare estimated grades against the final grades that were attained for all pupils, in order to set a benchmark, and then for care experienced pupils to see if there is a noticeable difference for this cohort. From that analysis they will look to see if this could be attributed to unconscious bias based on expectations, individual relationships, and teachers’ perceptions of care experienced young people and their circumstances.

Who was involved in making the change?

The Council’s Quality Improvement Education Officer is currently analysing the data with the Quality Improvement Manager for secondary schools, and they are working with ‘Hub for Success’ , an Edinburgh-based service working across HE and FE institutions to support young people with care experience to get in, stay in or return to education. The results of the analysis will determine the change needed and the approach this will take.

What difference did this change make?

If the data analysis indicates that teachers may have lower expectations of care experienced young people and are not expecting care experienced children to attain at a certain level, then the team have a greater understanding of a root cause. This intelligence will help to inform what the authority, in partnership with and inspired by the Hub for Success, could do to change the perspectives and approaches of secondary school teachers. If, on the other hand, the data shows that there isn’t evidence of bias, a different approach can be taken to work with teachers and young people to improve grades and offer additional support.

More information

Lorraine Moore, Hub for Success. Email: L.Moore@napier.ac.uk Website: hubforsuccess.org

Date: June 2020

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Meeting the Challenge: Technology steps in to keep relationships going during COVID-19

Meeting the Challenge: Technology steps in to keep relationships going during COVID-19

4359.png How Kibble, a specialist provider of services for young people facing adversity, is using technology to sustain relationships

 

What was the challenge faced by Kibble?

During the COVID-19 public health emergency, government lockdown restrictions meant physical, face-to-face meetings could no longer take place at Kibble, the specialist provider of services for young people facing adversity or trauma, therefore impacting visits from young people's families, social workers, advocates, and other important meetings. Kibble therefore sought ways to ensure children and young people retained vital contact with their families, social workers, and advocates, as well as identifying ways to support remote meetings including: Looked After Children's reviews, Children's Hearings, Foster Panel Assessments, and staff operational meetings. Given the importance of face-to-face meetings, Kibble needed to try and retain this, by using virtual means, as far as could be possible. It was essential to identify ways to retain safety and structure for their young people while reducing transmission of the virus.

What change in practice took place?

Prior to the lockdown restrictions being imposed, family, social work visits, and other important meetings could take place in person, however, under the new guidance Kibble needed to find alternative solutions. By beginning to use video technology and providing each care house with a dedicated smart phone with access to Skype, WhatsApp, and FaceTime, new arrangements were quickly put into place. Calls were co-ordinated by staff using an agreed phone list to ensure safeguarding. Across Kibble, employees were given access to Microsoft Teams and Skype, allowing both internal and external meetings to take place virtually. For the fostering services, video technology was used for foster carer recruitment to conduct assessments, virtual home visits, and Skills-to-Care Training. Their HR team was also able to conduct staff recruitment to fill essential roles using video technology. Using video Looked After Children Reviews and Children's Hearings went ahead as planned.

Who was involved in making the change?

With this already such an important channel for their age group, the children and young people naturally adapted to the use of video calls in order to speak to their families. Families, social workers, and children's rights advocates were kept informed through posters outlining simple instructions on this new way to contact their child, with each really welcoming this approach. As video use was growing across organisations, partners and stakeholders embraced this method and regular meetings were held with others across the sector including the Scottish Government, Care Inspectorate, and The Children's Panel. The Kibble Board was able to retain regular contact with senior managers, keeping them updated on progress while visits were not possible. Collectively, everyone across the organisation embraced the technology and this started to become the 'new norm'.

What difference did this change make?

Embracing video technology has been a lifeline for Kibble for several reasons. Firstly, it enabled children to retain regular contact with their families when physical, face-to-face visits were not possible. This was incredibly important for the young people's wellbeing and helped reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. Video technology supported Kibble to remain fully operational, enabling foster carer recruitment to proceed as well as assessments and training but by virtual means. Without this method, Kibble would not have been able to support important Looked After Children Reviews, Children's Hearings, foster carer assessments, and staff recruitment. The use of video technology also enabled support services to assist staff to work remotely, allowing daily progress meetings to take place. Following the lifting of lockdown restrictions, Kibble will continue to make use of video technology alongside physical, face-to-face meetings to enhance and streamline communications across the organisation.

More information

Steven Warner, Quality Improvement Manager, Kibble. Telephone: 0141 889 0044, Email: Steven.warner@kibble.org

Date: June 2020

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Meeting the Challenge: Online learning for care experienced pupils during COVID-19

Meeting the Challenge: Online learning for care experienced pupils during COVID-19

4359.pngHow City of Aberdeen Council ensured young people had the equipment and connectivity to continue to learn 

 

What was the challenge faced by City of Aberdeen Council?

Even before the lockdown was announced in Scotland, the Virtual School Head Teacher for City of Aberdeen Council recognised, having conducted an earlier survey across schools, that there would be a requirement for digital provision for Looked After Children including the need for connectivity. Chromebooks had already been purchased and were available for distribution. She could see that from information held in the Child's Plan for some children and young people and having spoken to colleagues in social work, that under lockdown, care would need to be taken when thinking about the use of digital devices and online learning. Once it was understood what the new learning environment could look like for the next few weeks, maybe months, ahead, the Virtual School Head Teacher, with the support of social work colleagues surveyed foster carers and parents of children looked after at home to gauge what digital and practical support may be needed to ensure the children and young people could access their learning and parents/carers felt confident to support them.

What change in practice took place?

A digital learning hub for the local authority education area was established to provide guidance for all pupils, parents, and carers on how to engage in online learning and how to set up equipment for face-to-face meetings with teachers and peers. Meanwhile, the Digital Lead Education Officer working closely with the Virtual School Head Teacher also looked specifically at how the service could best support learning for both the educational needs and wellbeing of all care experienced children and young people in schools. The Virtual School helpline was established at the very start of lockdown and provided a point of contact for parents, carers, and professionals to access support which included being able to speak to a central officer who could take them step by step through the process of setting up equipment and getting online. The Virtual School Head Teacher became the key link between families and the Digital Lead Officer. Social work colleagues were also able to submit request forms for digital devices or connectivity for any care experienced child or young person they support. For this local authority, a number of care experienced children and young people are accommodated and educated outside the city, so it was important for the Virtual School Head Teacher, to make sure that no matter where they were, no matter what school they attended, they could be provided with the equipment to be able to access their learning remotely.

Who was involved in making the change?

Working together, the Digital Lead officer and the Virtual School Head Teacher worked with pupils, teachers, social workers, parents and carers to identify needs and make sure care experienced pupils were not at a disadvantage from their peers due to lack of digital access. Telecoms partners were contacted before lockdown and EE provided all connectivity solutions in the form of dongles and increased data allowance at minimal costs.​​​​​​

What difference did this change make?

It was important that as far as possible in these unprecedented circumstances, that learning and teaching could continue with as little disruption as possible. In Aberdeen, pupils have continued their relationships with their peers and their teachers, both through online learning and through classroom chats. Across the local authority over 92% of all pupils are accessing and engaging in learning every week. Face-to-face contact has been maintained through video calls and a few care experienced young people who had previously been struggling to engage and participate in education, have built stronger relationships with their teachers through this period with online learning now forming part of their plan. At the start of lockdown, not all teachers felt confident with delivering lessons online, however, they have all now fully embraced this, acquiring new skills that will change how teaching is delivered in Aberdeen going forward.

More information

Larissa Gordon, Virtual School Headteacher, Aberdeen City Council. Telephone: 01224 523580, Email: lagordon@aberdeencity.gov.uk

Date: June 2020

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