Change is coming in the inspection of how well corporate parents are meeting their responsibilities in improving the lives of care experienced children and young people. Here, Judith Tait, Service Manager for the Strategic Scrutiny Team for Children and Justice in the Care Inspectorate, sets out how experiences and outcomes for children and young people will be at the heart of that change.
The Scottish Government’s child protection improvement programme, set up in 2016, reported back earlier this year and set out a vision for a child protection system in Scotland that places the wellbeing of children at the heart of everything it does.
As part of this review, Scottish Ministers asked us to work with our scrutiny partners to develop a revised model of inspection that takes a more focused look at vulnerable children and young people. In particular they want us to look at how well partners – health, education, police, social work and the third sector – work together to protect vulnerable children. These are children who are living with significant risks and are involved the child protection system.
We want to see how effective the partners are at identifying those children and at reducing risks promptly for them, working together to make them safer within their families. In addition, we were asked to look at the experience and outcomes of those who were subject to corporate parenting responsibilities and whether partners’ work together is achieving real improvements in their lives and helping them to succeed into adulthood.
This will include children and young people who are looked after away from home in fostering, residential, and secure care, those who are using through and after care services. We are going to take a closer look at those who are looked after at home, and those in kinship care because we know less about the experiences and outcomes for these children and young people. We will take account of the rights of looked after children and care leavers and the duties, powers and expectations placed on corporate parents.
The introduction of the new inspections will coincide with the introduction of the new health and social care standards in April 2018; these set out what people should experience from their care and support, right across health, children’s services, social work, and social care. This new type of inspection comes on top of the Care Inspectorate’s continuing work inspecting and supporting improvement in care homes, and other residential settings, for children and young people.
We have been talking to care experienced children and young people, many of whom also have experience of child protection, to find out what they think we should be looking at and what questions the inspections should answer. Their most important message is that children and young people should be enabled to experience sincere human contact and enduring relationships. So we need to look at how well the system is organised to ensure children and young people can experience continuity in their care and develop lasting relationships. We also need to look at how well staff are supported and equipped for their task.
It might seem that this kind of inspection is a bit removed from the real lives of children and young people, but what is important is that we will be finding more and better ways to hear their voices throughout the inspection. We want to know about how well they understand and have been involved in decisions and plans about their care and support and how well they think professionals work together to make sure their wellbeing is being promoted. We work with young inspection volunteers who meet with young people and interview staff as part of inspections and help us decide what is working and what isn’t. Where we find successful approaches and real strengths we will be highlighting these for other areas to see and learn from.
We will continue to look at leadership and how well they work together and are able to demonstrate what difference they are making to the lives of children in need of protection and those for whom they are corporate parents.
We are developing a new quality indicator framework which will help us tell the story of what we find when we are on inspection. Each of our inspections leads to a public report and we will be evaluating some of the key inspection questions. We will highlight positive practice and where things need to improve, we will make recommendations for improvement actions.