“I hope that in the next five years…the sense of collaboration that has become part of PACE becomes a real sustainable feature of the Scottish childcare landscape.”
Neil Hunter, Principal Reporter at the Scottish Administration (SCRA) speaking at Gathering PACE 2018
We all want what is best for children, particularly when life at home with their family becomes, for whatever reason, challenging and there is a need for outside support.
Research is clear that delaying decisions on a child’s permanent home has the potential to seriously impact on the rest of their lives and what they can achieve. All too often we hear stories of children who have had multiple placements – be it kinship, foster or residential care - and not having the emotional, physical and legal security that every child has a right to and deserves.
In Scotland, ‘permanence’ within a social services context has a fairly broad definition in terms of options available: keeping children at home with family support; returning a child to the family home with continual professional support; kinship care, where a child is cared for by another family member; long-term permanence fostering; residential care or adoption.
We are fortunate that in Scotland we have a framework and guidance to support getting decisions right for children. Getting it right for every child is the Scottish Government blueprint that supports families by making sure children and young people can receive the right help, at the right time, from the right people.
The CELCIS Permanence and Care Excellence (PACE) programme has been born out of a need to address these issues and to prevent what is known as ‘drift and delay’ in the system.
For the last five years, the PACE team at CELCIS has been working tirelessly with others to reduce the time it takes to make decisions to secure the emotional, physical and legal security for our looked after children. To do this we have to improve the quality of the delivery of services.
PACE has enabled us to collaborate with 22 of Scotland’s 32 Local Authority areas and their partners to create large teams of people who advocate for, and drive, this work. These ‘champion’s groups’ have the ability to make a positive difference to the lives of around 9,000 looked after children in Scotland - there are roughly just under 15,000 looked after children in Scotland in total, according to the most recent statistics.
There is always more to do, and we haven’t fixed drift and delay for all children, but we are certainly on our way.
We are immensely proud of what has been achieved so far through this way of working, including:
• reducing by over half, the time it takes to make permanence recommendations for children in two local authority areas to 28 weeks;
• introducing in four local authority areas a looked after review within two weeks of a child becoming looked after or accommodated – a much shorter timescale than before;
• the recognition of the value of acquiring legal advice before permanency planning looked after review, by a number of local authorities.
Much of the success of the programme has been shared at our annual Gathering PACE Conference, which provides an opportunity for the local PACE areas to come together, share best practice and learn from some of the country’s leading experts on permanence planning for children.
In 2017/2018 Programme for Government, for the Scottish Government set out the ambition for PACE to be offered to all 32 local authorities.
PACE is a programme of attraction, not compulsion, and in addition to the 22 up and running now, five more areas want to use the programme over the next year to help turbo charge their improvements for looked after children.
To do so, we are now set to launch PACE 2.0: the new PACE Collaborative!
Clackmannanshire, Dundee, Inverclyde, South Ayrshire and Stirling are on board and in May this year we are arranging a three-day intensive residential to equip them with the skills and knowledge to progress their own improvement journey aligned to the main aims of PACE.
Each local area will nominate a team of six made up of social work, Children’s Hearing Scotland, the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA), legal services and data support.
Over the coming year, the teams will harness support from each other, their own allocated coach, and data experts from CELCIS. Learning and sharing will be facilitated through a series of webinars, project surgeries, group and individual coaching sessions. There will be a celebratory event at the end of the year-long programme.
We’re all really excited about the next stage in the evolution of the PACE programme. We will continue to support the existing PACE areas who have been innovators and early adopters of this work, and on whom we base our success. We will be inviting some of those folk to support the Collaborative with their experience and knowledge.
We will keep you updated on progress.