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This Is The Most Important Research Report Regarding Children In Care For Decades – It Is Required Reading

This is the most important research report regarding children in care for decades – it is required reading

Children deprived of their liberty: An analysis of the first two months of applications to the national deprivation of liberty court

Children deprived of their liberty: An analysis of the first two months of applications to the national deprivation of liberty court – Nuffield Family Justice Observatory (nuffieldfjo.org.uk)

In NCERCC’s opinion it is required reading for all involved with social work/care. Close study is needed of the report. The summary omits too much that it is paramount is understood.

It is instructive that it is a body outside of social care that initiated the research. This makes the report stronger as it is independent of the subject it is researching.

Family Courts have had increasing concerns about a highly vulnerable group of young people who were being deprived of their liberty as a result of the lack of appropriate placements to meet their needs, and of them being placed in ‘suboptimal’ settings that are unable to meet the child’s needs where there is a ‘lack of any therapeutic input, unspecialised staff and inadequate access to education or training’. In ‘a number of recent cases, the court has refused to authorise the use of such placements on the grounds that the placements were so inappropriate, they cannot be said to be in the child’s best interests’.

The report is significant because it asks the question that has been avoided for years. NCERCC has been one of those asking for statistics from a needs led audit for all children needing accommodation. By this we would find out the extent and type of needs, the provision needed, and where it needs to be. The answer NCERCC routinely received was to explain the question was not asked because ‘we already know the answers, we will find more needs and homes’.

A profession wide task – understanding this most important research report regarding children in care for decades

The research reports on the needs, and characteristics and circumstances of the children, the case studies give excellent insights.

These pages sections are recommended for study and discussion

  • Table 1 Child’s placement at the time of the DOL application page 13
  • Instability of placements page 14
  • Children subject to previous DOL orders page 14
  • Length of time in care at the time of the application page 15
  • Involvement with children’s social care and exposure to early life adversity page 16
  • Multiplicity and complexity of needs page 25 (average = 4.2 risk factors)
  • Figure 10 Prevalence of needs and risk factors page 28
  • Co-occurring needs and grouping of needs page 35

(It will be beneficial to read the review of published judgements over time too nfjo_report_dol-case-review_20220318_final.pdf (nuffieldfjo.org.uk) )

In summary these children are known and have not been served well, the meeting of their needs has been compromised.  

Matters arising – applying sector knowledge and experience to expand the learning offered by the report

The report will benefit by sector specific knowledge and experience. Maybe include peer review in a future report?

  1. The term ‘co-occurring’ is more accurate than complex needs which should be discontinued.

This is an excellent potential development. The term ‘complex needs’ has lost any definition. Co-occurring, knowing that the children have multiple and complex (average 4.2) risk factors directs us to be more analytic and definitive. Unless we can be specific, that directs us to the specialist provision necessary, we will be stuck with sufficient, all too often resulting in generic admissions.

  1. Thinking further about the identified 3 distinct cohorts of children with different needs who may require different types of care

Nuffield FJO identify 3 three broadly distinct groups of children for whom the DoL application was being sought for different reasons:

  • children with learning and physical disabilities needing support/supervision
  • children who had multiple, complex needs, which were often recognised to be a response to complex and ongoing trauma
  • children experiencing or at risk of external or extrafamilial risk factors such as sexual or criminal exploitation.

Nuffield hoped such categorisation may help guide future service development.

NCERCC has reflected and concludes that there is potential that categorising the needs leads us into the familiar territory of care, health and youth justice. NCERCC has long asserted the need to stay with the sophistication rather than the attraction of simplification. Again we come to the view that with the children having co-occurring multiple and complex (average 4.2) risk factors we are directed to be more analytic and definitive especially when we will need to apply compatibility and risk evaluations. Effective and efficient care comes through analytical assessment and admissions.

  1. The right response not a reactive response – there is no short term solution to the situation.

We do not have the placements. We do not have the workforce.

  1. Placements These will take 3-5 years to develop.

These will need to be local authority/health settings.

The commissioning experiment shows markets work especially badly for those with the highest needs. Intensive sustained investment is not an attractive commercial proposition. Extractive and speculative investment does not look kindly upon ventures involving such risk.

Equally we need to be watchful that LA homes are not more of the same as the independent sector.  LA homes need to be specialist.

  1. The workforce will need development.

We do not have the social care workforce with the required knowledge and skills base nor do many have the acquired experiences. These are not present in CAMHS any longer either. Frequently such children will not meet the thresholds for diagnosis or formulation.

Fortunately, we still do have the personnel who have this knowledge, expertise and experience. They need to be brought together into a national task force to deliver the learning necessary.

  1. DfE need to be much stronger in their direction regarding the use of the new Supported Accommodation sector as it can act to deter, delay, dilute accessing the right place at the right time for the right child

Supported Accommodation is now being used for such children.

It is clear needs have been and are compromised.

Yet in the DfE draft for consultation re Supported Accommodation it is clearly stated as follows Draft for consultation – Guide to supported accommodation regulations including Quality Standards (education.gov.uk)

Where young people of this age have needs that would best be met in a children’s home or foster care placement, that is where they should be placed.

Supported accommodation for looked-after children and care leavers caters for older children aged 16 and 17 who have relatively high or increasing levels of independence, who are ready to gain further skills to prepare for adult living, and who do not need the degree of care or type of environment provided in a children’s home or foster care.

Where a young person has complex needs and/or requires a greater level of ongoing care and supervision, we do not expect that supported accommodation would be appropriate

Attaining 16 years of age for some children has become the threshold for them experiencing one day having 2 or 3 staff caring for them, and the next intermittent support. There is an inevitability of progression into health or justice settings, if not soon then adulthood.

NCERCC