Every child needs to be loved and to feel secure. We know the circumstances a child is born into and raised has a critical impact on their wellbeing. Where children cannot live with their birth family, there is a relatively short window to take action to ensure that children are secure. Delays close off those opportunities, particularly delays in decision-making
The Scottish Children's Reporters Administration report published in 2011 highlighted drift and delay in achieving permanence for children. The main cause of delay was the formal systems and decision-making processes. Here at CELCIS, achieving permanence for looked after children is one of the central planks of our philosophy, so what could we do to reduce drift and delay?
Our Permanence and Care Team (PaCT) has worked in partnership with key stakeholders across Scotland since mid-2012, creating a growing understanding of effective and efficient decision-making practices in permanence. The creation of effective case tracking systems coupled with strong local leadership has been critical to the success of this work. To achieve that success, the PaCT has provided consultancy and support to partners and helped in developing confidence and skills in permanence practice.
In 2013, in partnership with the Scottish Government, our Permanence and Care Excellence (PACE) programme was introduced. This work with key stakeholders, promotes a whole systems approach - designed to better understand and address sources of drift and delay from across all the agencies working with looked after children. Our main purpose is to help agencies make more timely, robust decisions for children so that they achieved lasting permanent placements. The approach involves promoting and influencing best practice, using Quality Improvement methodology and a programme management approach.
Using quality improvement to influence permanence practice gives a high degree of focus on analysing data to understand current performance, and to measure improvement. PACE has encouraged separate areas to link the process of carrying out effective assessments in the key milestones of a child. Research supports this approach. PACE also empowers workers to use their professional knowledge to make improvements, and to increase the sector's confidence in making good decisions for children. And attachment informed practice is helping us to understand why decisions must be taken within a timescale which meets the child's needs.
A key area of concern remains contact. Researchers have emphasised the importance of '[a] Biehal, 2007 and that '[t]he mere frequency of contact does not predict successful and safe return home' (Humphreys and Kiraly, 2009). These key messages are used to underpin the work of the PaCT team in awareness sessions with stakeholders including children's hearing members.
There is a far greater understanding of the issues in permanence for children across modern Scotland, and we're continuing to tackle these issues together. PaCT's experience to date has been marked by the sector's willingness and eagerness to improve, readiness to share, to learn and to continue to grow in confidence.