LOOKING AFTER CHILDREN IN SCOTLAND: GOOD PARENTING, GOOD OUTCOMES. Report on File Audit of Local Authorities use of Looking After Children Materials

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1 LOOKING AFTER CHILDREN IN SCOTLAND: GOOD PARENTING, GOOD OUTCOMES Report on File Audit of Local Authorities use of Looking After Children Materials Social Work Services Inspectorate: Dr Sharon Vincent Consultants: Ms Jackie Irvine Ms Anne Partington

2 Contents Page Summary of Key Findings 2 Section One - Introduction 3 Section Two - Findings 4 1 Characteristics of the children included in the Audit 4 2 Essential Core Record and Placement Agreement 8 3 Essential Background Record 9 4 Care Plans 11 5 Day to Day Placement Arrangements 12 6 Review Materials 13 7 Assessment and Action Records 15 Section Three - Conclusions 17 Annex 1 The Sample 21 Annex 2 Local Authority File Audit Questionnaire 22 Annex 3 Possible revisions to Looking After Children forms 37 1

3 SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS In local authorities who were using the Looking After Children materials audited 430 of their children and young people s files. The main findings of this audit were: Essential Core Records and Placement Agreements were well used. 80% of children had a completed record and agreement, the majority had been completed timeously and the quality of the information within them was good. The carer s agreement and young person s agreement was not always completed and most records had not been updated. Half of all children whose files were audited had an Essential Background Record. However, again in many cases the record had not been updated and some information, in particular that relating to health and education, had not been fully completed. 70% of the children whose files were audited had a Care Plan. The quality of information in the Care Plan was generally good although some had not been updated for more than 6 months. Just over half of the files audited had a completed Day to Day Placement Arrangements form. The information in the form was generally good although many of the forms had not been updated for more than 6 months. Most reviews had been held within statutory timescales and in the large majority of cases there was a fully completed social worker s review report. In the majority of cases there was also a carer s review report but there was far less likely to be a young person s report or a parent s report. The Assessment and Action Record was the least well used part of the Looking After Children materials. Only 8% of children who might be expected to have such a record had one and few were fully completed. 2

4 SECTION 1 - INTRODUCTION The Looking After Children in Scotland: Good Parenting, Good Outcomes materials were piloted and adapted in Scotland in and launched nationally in The materials comprise a comprehensive system of information gathering, planning, assessment and review for children looked after away from home that meets the requirements of the Children (Scotland) Act They contain 6 different types of records that aim to introduce ideas about outcome into social work practice and are based on 7 dimensions which are key to the development of children and young people. In 2002 Glasgow University was commissioned to assess how the materials were being used in practice 1. A postal questionnaire was sent to local authorities and the findings in the subsequent report are based on information from 19 local authorities, 17 of whom had implemented the Looking After Children materials. The authors report concluded that the materials provided a good basis for information gathering but time constraints often resulted in incomplete use of the system and the forms not being updated regularly across all authorities. In 2003 Anne Partington and Jackie Irvine were commissioned by the Scottish Executive to undertake a file audit of the Looking After Children materials. A questionnaire was developed which enabled the file auditors in the local authorities to provide information about all the components of the Looking After Children materials (see Annex 1). The questionnaire also gave file auditors the opportunity to comment on the file audit process and on the individual components of the Looking After Children materials. The questionnaire was finalised following a small scale pilot exercise in 3 local authorities and sent to all 32 local authorities at the end of July The data was analysed by Anne and Jackie in conjunction with Scottish Executive staff. The local authorities involved made a significant contribution to the project. The initiative and motivation for evaluation came from project managers in the local authorities, many of whom also contributed in a practical way to the development of the audit tool. 1 Jane Scott and Professor Malcolm Hill (March 2003) Looking After Children in Scotland: Good Parenting, Good Outcomes, Quality Assurance of the Looking After Children materials: Findings about use of Looking After Children in Scotland, Glasgow Centre for the Child and Society, Glasgow University. 3

5 SECTION 2 - FINDINGS The findings presented below are based on information from 430 files which were audited in 29 local authorities. The files of 6.8% of all looked after and accommodated children in Scotland were included in the audit. 3 local authorities had not implemented the Looking After Children materials and were not, therefore, able to take part in the audit. The 29 local authorities who took part had implemented the Looking After Children materials at various dates between 1999 and 2003 (see table 1). 3 local authorities indicated that they had implemented the materials before In 2 of these cases this was because the local authority had implemented the pilot materials prior to the launch of the revised materials in In the third case the local authority had implemented its own version of the Looking After Children materials. The number of cases audited in each authority varied from 5 to 30 depending on the size of the authority (see Annex 1). Table 1 Implementation of the Looking After Children materials YEAR Number of authorities Prior to Information not provided 1 TOTAL 29 1) The characteristics of the children included in the audit Age Figure 1 The age of the children 25,(6%) 20,(5%) 34,(8%) under one year 96, (22%) 27, (6%) 68, (16%) 1 to 2 years 3 to 4 years 5 to 9 years 10 to 14 years 15 years and over Information not provided 160, (37%) More than a third of the children whose files were audited were aged between 10 and 14, more than a fifth were 15 or over and just under a fifth were under 5. 16% of children were aged between 5 and 9 (figure 1). 4

6 Gender Table 2 The children s gender Male 238 (55.5%) Female 190 (44%) t known 2 (0.5%) TOTAL 430 More males files were audited than females (table 2) but the percentages are the same as for the whole population of accommodated children in Scotland and so the sample was representative according to gender 2. Length of Time Accommodated The categories chosen to represent the length of time accommodated reflect the formal review requirements for children who are looked after and accommodated. The first review should be held within 6 weeks, the second within 3 months of the first and subsequently every 6 months. Almost two thirds of the children whose files were audited had been accommodated for more than 10.5 months and nearly a third had been accommodated for more than 2 years (Figure 2). Less than a fifth had been accommodated for under 4.5 months. Figure 2 The length of time the children had been accommodated 11, (3%) 57, (13%) 135, (31%) under 6 weeks 6 weeks to 4.5 months 4.5 months to 10.5 months 99, (23%) 10.5 months to 2 years over 2 years 128, (30%) Type of Placement Figure 3 shows that more than half of the children whose files were audited were living with foster carers and more than a third were living in residential accommodation, with equal proportions in residential units and residential schools. The audit included a higher proportion of children in residential placements and a lower proportion living with friends and relatives than in the accommodated population as a whole. Because most local authorities do not use the Looking After Children materials for children in family and friends placements, only a small number of children recorded in the audit were living with friends and relatives. 2 Scottish Executive Looked After Children statistics

7 Figure 3 Where the children were living with friends /relatives 3, (1%) 15, (3%) 73, (17%) 11, (3%) 17, (4%) with foster carers with prospective adopters local authority residential unit 73, (17%) 14, (3%) 224, (52%) voluntary residential unit residential school secure accommodation other Figure 4 The ethnic origin of the children 8, (2%) 15, (3%) 7, (2%) 1, (0%) 1, (0%) 398, (93%) White Black-Caribbean Pakistani Mixed-Ethnicity t Known Information not provided 6

8 The large majority (93%) of children whose files were audited were white. Only 8 children were of black or mixed ethnicity (Figure 4). Legal Status More than a third of the children included in the audit were subject to a supervision requirement away from home excluding a residential establishment (Figure 5), a lower proportion than in the accommodated population as a whole. A quarter were on a supervision requirement away from home in a residential establishment but excluding secure accommodation, a higher proportion than in the accommodated population as whole. Just under a quarter of children in the audit were accommodated voluntarily under section 25, a slightly higher proportion than in the whole accommodated population. Figure 5 The legal status of the children 2, (0%) 1, (0%) 13, (3%) 4, (1%) 11, (3%) 5, (1%) 1, (0%) 12, (3%) 110, (26%) 99, (23%) 22, (5%) accommodation under section 25 parental responsibilities order supervision requirement away from home excluding residential establishment supervision requirement away from home in a residential establishment but excluding secure accommodation supervision requirement away from home with a secure condition criminal court provision child protection measure warrant 150, (35%) freed for adoption other not recorded in case record Information not provided 7

9 2) Essential Core Record and Placement Agreement Table 3 Whether or not an Essential Core Record and Placement Agreement was completed 343 (80%) 87 (20%) TOTAL 430 (100%) The purpose of the Essential Core Record and Placement Agreement is to hold all the personal information about the child. It provides information needed by carers looking after a child including the immediate arrangements for contact and medical treatment. Table 3 shows that an Essential Core Record and Placement Agreement had been completed in 80% of cases which were included in the audit. Those children who had been accommodated for more than 2 years were the least likely to have an Essential Core Record and Placement Agreement with only two thirds having one compared with 91% of those who had been accommodated for less than 6 weeks. This may be because some local authorities audited cases where the child had been accommodated prior to their implementation of the Looking After Children (LAC) materials. In these cases the child would not necessarily have had a completed Essential Core Record and Placement Agreement although some authorities reported that they had completed the Essential Core Record and Placement Agreements retrospectively. While more than three quarters of children living in residential accommodation, with foster carers, with prospective adopters and in secure accommodation had an Essential Core Record and Placement Agreement, just over half of those living with friends or relatives did so. Table 4 When the Essential Core Record and Placement Agreement was completed Before admission 101 (30%) Within 1-2 days 123 (36%) Within 2-14 days 46 (13%) After more than 14 days 38 (11%) date provided on the 30 (9%) record response given 3 (1%) TOTAL 343 (100%) Where Essential Core Record and Placement Agreements existed they had generally been completed timeously. In 30% of cases the record had actually been completed prior to placement. This is a surprising finding given that many placements are emergency placements in which case it may only be possible to complete the record at the point of admission. Two thirds of the records had been completed before or within 1 or 2 days of admission (see Table 4). 11% had not, however, been completed until more than 2 weeks after admission. Just over a third (121) of Essential Core Record and Placement Agreements had been updated but just under two thirds (217) had not. The length of time a child had been accommodated appeared to have little effect on whether or not the Essential Core Record and Placement Agreement had been updated. The auditors reported that most of the information in the Essential Core Record and Placement forms was generally well completed: personal details were fully completed in 70% of cases and nearly completed in a further 25% of cases; 8

10 legal and protection issues were fully completed in 86% of cases; placement information was fully completed in 70% of cases and nearly completed in a further 16% of cases; health information was fully completed in nearly 66% of cases and nearly completed in a further 23% of cases; education information was fully completed in more than 66% of cases and nearly completed in a further 12% of cases; family details were fully completed in almost 66% of cases and were nearly completed in a further 23% of cases; contact details were completed in 66% of cases and were nearly completed in a further 17% of cases although contact details were not completed at all in 11% of cases; the social worker s signature was attached in 75% of cases; and consent to medical treatment was fully completed in 60% of cases. The carer s agreement to the placement was, however, only fully completed in just under 50% of cases and the parents agreement in just over 50% of cases. The carer s agreement should be sought for children who are in foster placements. But in only 51% of cases where a child in a foster placement had an Essential Core Record and Placement Agreement was the carer s agreement fully completed, the same proportion as for children in local authority residential units. Those children living in secure units, voluntary residential units and residential schools were less likely to have a fully completed carer s agreement. The young person s agreement was the least well completed part of the form. It had only been fully completed in 25% of cases. In some cases where the agreement was not completed, this would have been because the child was too young to have completed it and in 80% of cases where the child s agreement was fully completed the child was 10 or over. However, of 197 young people aged 10 or over who had an Essential Core Record and Placement Agreement only 68 (35%) had a fully completed young person s agreement. 3) Essential Background Record Table 5 Whether or not an Essential Background Record was completed 211 (49%) 217 (50%) Information not provided 2 (1%) TOTAL 430 (100%) The Essential Background Record asks for more comprehensive information about the child s background including both legal and placement history. Around half of the files audited had a completed Essential Background Record (Table 5), a far lower proportion than those who had a completed Essential Core Record and Placement Agreement. Almost three quarters of children who had been accommodated for less than 6 weeks had an Essential Background Record compared with 44% of those who had been accommodated for more than 2 years. The proportion of children who had an Essential Background Record also varied according to placement type. While almost two thirds of those living with prospective adopters had an Essential Background Record only a quarter of those living with friends or relatives did so. Some authorities reported that Essential Background Records were not included in the child s file because the information was held electronically or in other formats. 9

11 Table 6 When the Essential Background Record was completed Before admission 41 (19.5%) Within 14 days 81 (38%) Between 14 days and 6 weeks 20 (9.5%) After 6 weeks 30 (14%) Date not known 31 (15%) Information not given 8 (4%) TOTAL 211 (100%) More than half of the Essential Background Records had been completed either before the child was accommodated or within 2 weeks of admission (Table 6) but 14% had not been completed until at least 6 weeks after admission. In more than half of the cases where the child had been accommodated for over 2 years it took more than 6 weeks to complete the record. This may have been due to retrospective completion following implementation. Table 7 Whether or not the Essential Background Record had been updated 68 (32%) 132 (63%) Information not given 11 (5%) TOTAL 211 (100%) A third of Essential Background Records had been updated but nearly two thirds had not (Table 7). The length of time the child had been accommodated appeared to have little effect upon whether or not the Essential Background Record had been updated. The quality of the information included in the Essential Background Records varied. Some parts of the record had on the whole been well completed. The auditors reported that: personal details had been fully completed in over two thirds of cases; and legal and protection details and placement details had been fully completed in almost three quarters of cases. Other parts of the record were poorer: health information was fully completed in 30% of cases, nearly completed in a further 30% of cases, only partially or minimally completed in 25% of cases and not completed at all in 15% of cases; education information was fully completed in 37% of cases, nearly completed in a further 17% of cases, only partially or minimally completed in 21% of cases and not completed at all in 23% of cases; professional contacts was only fully completed in just under 50% of cases and not completed at all in a third of cases; and in over 33% of cases the record had not been signed by a social worker. 10

12 4) Care Plans LOOKING AFTER CHILDREN: GOOD PARENTING, GOOD OUTCOMES Table 8 Whether or not a Care Plan had been completed 300 (70%) 117 (27%) Information not given 13 (3%) TOTAL 430 (100%) The purpose of the Care Plan is to ensure that all children and young people who are looked after have clearly stated immediate and longer term objectives set out for their care and a strategy for achieving this. It is a statutory requirement for all looked after children to have a Care Plan. 70% of the files audited included a completed Care Plan but more than 25% did not (Table 8). The length of time the children had been accommodated had little effect on whether or not the child had a Care Plan but the type of placement did appear to have an effect. 93% of children living with prospective adopters had a Care Plan compared to 87% of children in secure accommodation, 82% in a voluntary residential unit, 75% in a local authority residential unit, 74% in a residential school, 66% in a foster placement and 41% living with friends or relatives. Just over 75% (235) of completed Care Plans were up to date in that they related to the child's current placement but 17% (51) of Care Plans were not up to date. In 5% (14) of cases this information was not provided. Table 9 When was the Care Plan completed/updated In the last 3 months 85 (28%) Between 3 and 6 months ago 64 (21.5%) More than 6 months ago 141 (47%) TOTAL 300 (100%) There is a minimum requirement to review accommodated children every 6 months. The initial review should be held within 6 weeks and the second review within 4.5 months of the child being accommodated. In almost half of cases where there was a completed Care Plan the plan had been completed or updated more than 6 months prior to the date of audit (Table 9) so many Care Plans may not have accurately reflected the child's current circumstances. Some authorities advised, however, that the practice in their authority was to attach the decisions from the child's recent review rather than updating the Care Plan. The overall quality of the information included within Care Plans was found to be good. The auditors reported that: personal details had been fully completed in 93% of cases; the legal basis had been fully completed in 92% of cases; information on the previous care plan/resources had been fully completed in just over 75% of cases; information on consultation had been fully completed in just under 75% of cases; assessment needs had been fully completed in 66% of cases; planned outcomes and contact arrangements had been fully completed in 75% of cases; legal arrangements and other actions had been fully completed in 70% of cases; and an action summary had been fully completed in just under 66% of cases. The next review date had, however, only been fully completed in 58% of cases and signatures had only been fully completed in between a quarter and a third of cases. Some file auditors 11

13 commented that the absence of signatures may reflect the difficulty in obtaining the signatures of all parties retrospectively. 5) Day-to-Day Placement Arrangements Table 10 Whether or not Day to Day Placement Arrangements had been completed/updated 244 (57%) 181 (42%) Information not provided 5 (1%) TOTAL 430 (100%) The Day to Day Arrangements Record is designed to determine how best a child or young person s day to day needs can be met during a placement. It records the arrangements for a child s upbringing where responsibilities are divided between a number of people. In the case of foster placements this form was designed to meet the legal requirement for a placement agreement detailing the arrangements for a child s upbringing. Over half of the files which were audited had a completed Day to Day Placement Arrangements form (Table 10). Whether or not there was a Day to Day Placement Arrangement varied according to the length of time the child had been accommodated. While 73% of those who had been accommodated for less than 6 weeks had a Day to Day Placement Arrangements form, only 43% of those who had been accommodated for more than 2 years had one. Whether or not there was a Day to Day Placement Arrangement also varied according to the type of placement: 71% of those who were living with prospective adopters had a Day to Day Placement Arrangement compared to 58% of those with foster carers, or in a local authority residential unit or residential school and a quarter of those living with friends or relatives. Some authorities commented that they did not feel Day to Day Placement forms were appropriate for children in certain placements, for example, those in long term foster placements. In 82% of cases where there was a Day to Day Placement Arrangements form the information related to the child's placement at the time of audit but in 15% of cases it did not. In 3% of cases this information was not provided. Table 11 When the Day to Day Placements Arrangements Form was completed/updated In the last 3 months 67 (27%) In the last 3 to 6 months 33 (14%) More than 6 months ago 132 (54%) Information not provided 12 (5%) TOTAL 244 (100%) As with the Care Plan the time intervals used in Table 11 were chosen to reflect the review intervals. More than half of the Day to Day Placement Arrangement forms had been completed or last updated more than 6 months prior to the date of audit (Table 11) and were, therefore, not likely to reflect the child s current circumstances. As with Care Plans, where a Day to Day Placements Arrangements form was completed most questions had been well completed. The auditors reported that: personal details had been fully completed in 85% of cases; health details and social work arrangements had been fully completed in just under 75% of cases; education details had been fully completed in just over 66% of cases; the contacts/relationships part of the form had been fully completed in 82% of cases; and identity/development had been fully completed in just under 66% of cases. 12

14 Social and leisure activities and signatures were not so well completed: social and leisure activities had only been fully completed in just over 50% of cases and had not been completed at all in more than 25% of cases; and signatures had been fully completed in only 38% of cases and had not been completed in 20% of cases. 6) Review Materials The purpose of the review records is to provide a framework for collecting information about the work currently being undertaken with the child and his or her family, for assessing progress and for deciding any necessary changes in order to meet or alter the objectives of the Care Plan. File auditors were asked to consider a range of questions on all the forms within the review folder and to use the most recent review recorded on the file. The 11 children who had been accommodated for less than 6 weeks would not have been required to have had a review but practice varies across Scotland and in some authorities the first review may take place within 6 weeks of placement. Social Worker's review report (Part 1 of Review Folder) 84% (364) of the cases which were audited included a completed Social Worker s Review report and 12% (50) did not. In the remaining 4% of cases this information was not provided. In 80% (291) of cases the review was held within the statutory timescale but in 16% (60) of cases it was not. In 4% of cases this information was not provided. Whether or not a social worker s review report existed varied according to the length of time the child had been accommodated. While 93% of those who had been accommodated for more than 2 years had a social worker s review report, the proportion decreased to 60% of those who had been accommodated for between 6 weeks and 4.5 months by which time a review should have taken place. Social worker s review reports were usually well completed. The auditors indicated that: essential details and legal and protection status had been fully completed in 89% of cases; social work involvement and family relationships had been completed in almost 75% of cases; recommendations had been completed in 75% of cases; and progress in placement and the child or young person s development since the last review had been completed in just over 75% of cases. Carer s/key worker s review report (Part 2 of review folder) Just over two thirds (292) of the files which were audited had a completed Carer s Report and a quarter (108) did not. In 7% of cases this information was not provided. In one file auditors noted that the practice in their area was not to include carer s review reports in the child s file. Whether or not there was a carer s review report varied according to how long the child had been accommodated. While more than three quarters of those who had been accommodated for over 2 years had a carer s review report the proportion decreased to almost half of those who had been accommodated for between 6 weeks and 4.5 months. The file auditors indicated that the different sections of the report progress in placement, and family/carers /key workers information had been fully completed in more than three quarters of cases where there was a carers review report. The young person s development had been fully 13

15 completed in 78% of cases and nearly completed in a further 15% of cases which shows there is a good working knowledge and understanding of the 7 developmental dimensions which are integral to the Looking After Children materials. Child/young person's report (Part 3 of review folder) A third (146) of the files which were audited included a child s review report but more than half (240) did not. In 7% of cases this information was not provided. One file auditor commented that it was not the practice in their area to include the child s report in the file. The age of the child would have an impact on the number of reports completed. Very young children would not be expected to have a child/young person s report but it would be reasonable to expect that children over 10 would be able to contribute their views in the form of a report. 44% of children aged 10 to 14 had a child/young person s report and 46% of those aged 15 and over. Whether or not a child s report had been completed also varied according to how long the child had been accommodated. While 39% of those who had been accommodated for over 2 years had a child s report only 18% of those who had been accommodated for between 6 weeks and 4.5 months did so. In almost two thirds of cases (64%) where a child s report existed auditors indicated that the questions had been fully completed and in a further 24% of cases the questions had been nearly completed. Parents report (Part 4 of review folder) Far less parents report forms had been completed for reviews than carers or children and young people s forms. A parents report form had only been completed in a fifth (91) of cases. Auditors reported that a further 3% (10) had been completed but were not in the file. In two fifths (292) of cases a parents form had not been completed and in 8% of cases this information was not provided. The length of time the child had been accommodated had little effect on whether or not there was a parents report. Where a parents form had been completed auditors indicated that in just over half of the cases all of the questions had been fully completed and in another 28% of cases all questions had been nearly completed. Other Reports In just under half (210) of cases auditors indicated that other reports had been completed or submitted to the review. In some cases more than 1 additional report had been completed for the review so that the total number of additional reports was

16 Table 12 Other reports which were submitted to the review Education 144 Health Visitor 8 General Practitioner 4 Other Health professional 42 Summary sheet from A and A record 3 Children s Hearing report 15 Child Protection case Conference 6 Minute or report Other 53 TOTAL 275 Table 12 shows that education reports were the most likely reports to be submitted to a review. Only a small number of reports were submitted by health visitors and GPs but there were a number of reports from other health professionals. Minute 70% (302) of files which were audited had a completed minute and just under a quarter (96) did not. In 8% of cases this information was not provided. One file auditor suggested that delays in getting the minute typed following the review could account for its absence from the file. Another auditor suggested there may be delays in filing the typed minute. However, the minute is an important part of the review folder (it provides a record and history of decisions made and minutes may be required in cases disputed in court hearings) and its absence in 96 cases is a significant gap. Where a completed minute (part 6) existed the auditors usually reported that the questions had been completed well: Question 1 had been fully completed in almost 75% of cases; Questions 2, 5 and 7 had been fully completed in just over 75% of cases; Questions 3 and 4 had been fully completed in 81% of cases; and Question 6 had been fully completed in 80% of cases. 7) Assessment and Action Records The Assessment and Action Records are designed to promote good quality care for children and young people. They provide a tool to assess children s progress in relation to the care they receive and to plan future actions. Assessment and Action Records were the least likely part of the Looking After Children materials to be completed. In 6 authorities the file auditors indicated that the Assessment and Action Records had not yet been implemented or said that they did not expect them to be used routinely. 30 (9%) children whose files were audited in the remaining local authorities had an assessment and action record, 295 (91%) did not. In addition, the implementation guidance suggested that the Assessment and Action Records should be considered at the second review (4.5 months) and completed for the third review at approximately 10.5 months. Children who had been accommodated for less than 10.5 months might not, therefore, be expected to have an assessment and action record and we would expect those who did have records to have been accommodated for longer: 13% (18) of children who had been accommodated for more than 2 years had an Assessment and Action Record and 5% (6) of those who had been accommodated for between 10.5 months and two years. In addition, 15

17 5% (5) of those who had been accommodated for 4.5 to 10.5 months had a record and 2% (1) of those who had been accommodated for less than 6 weeks. Where an Assessment and Action Record existed: 43% were for 10 to 14 year olds; 20% were for 5 to 9 year olds; 17% were for young people aged 15 and over; only 13% were for children under 5; and in 7% of cases the age of the child was not provided. Even if a completed Assessment and Action Record existed the auditors found that there was a wide discrepancy in relation to which sections had been fully completed. This may reflect the way the record was used in relation to individual children where some sections may not have been considered a priority. The quality of the information in the record was generally poor. The auditors found that: the health record had been fully completed in less than 25% of cases and not completed at all in 30% of cases; the education record had been fully completed in only 14% of cases and not completed at all in 43% of cases; the identity record had been fully completed in only 20% of cases and not completed at all in 40% of cases; family and social relationships had been fully completed in only 13% of cases and not completed at all in 40% of cases; the social presentation record had been fully completed in only 7% of cases and not completed at all in almost 50% of cases; the emotional and behavioural development record had been fully completed in only 14% of cases and not completed at all in 43% of cases; the self care skills record had been fully completed in only 3% of cases and not completed at all in almost 50% of cases; and the summary of work record had been fully completed in only 17% of cases and not completed at all in more than 50% of cases. This is a significant gap as the summary of work is the section of the record that details what action is required and should be fed into the Review and resulting changes to the Care Plan. 16

18 SECTION 3 - CONCLUSIONS It is very encouraging that all 29 local authorities who are using the Looking After Children materials agreed to take part in the file audit. Some commented that taking part in the audit had been a useful exercise. One authority said that the process had [ ] shown up where we are using the forms appropriately and where we may need to improve our practice. Comments made by some local authorities suggest that practitioners do not always view the Looking After Children materials as the useful working tool they were intended to be. For example, one file auditor commented that [ ] the material was regarded as a bureaucratic necessity rather than a useful working tool. Another stated that [ ] the forms continue to convey a sense of paperwork completed for its own sake. Table 13 compares local authorities use of the Looking After Children materials in the file audit and the Scott and Hill (2003) study. The Scott and Hill study found higher levels of usage of all the forms than the file audit. There were, however, some important differences between the 2 studies. The findings from the Scott and Hill study are based on information from 17 authorities for the Essential Core Record and Placement Agreement, Essential Background Record and Assessment and Action Record and on information from 16 authorities for Day to Day Placement Agreements, Care Plans and Review Records while the findings from the file audit are based on information from 29 local authorities. It is difficult to make direct comparisons for the review record as Scott and Hill asked for an overall completion rate but the file audit broke this information down into the separate reports from the review record. What is interesting, however, is that the file audit found that none of the parts of the review record were fully completed. Table 13 Use of the Looking After Children materials Form Full or partial use in the File audit findings Scott and Hill study Essential Core Record and 100% 80% Placement Agreement Essential Background 76% 49% Record Day to Day Placement 94% 57% Arrangements Care Plan 100% 70% Review Record 100% Part 1 84% Part 2 68% Part 3 34% Part 4 21% Part 6 70% Assessment and Action Records 24% 9% Essential Core Record and Placement Agreement The file audit found that the Essential Core Record and Placement Agreements were well used. In 80% of cases the form had been completed to a high standard. More than 75% of forms had been completed prior to or within 14 days of the child being accommodated which indicates that the form is being given appropriate priority in the early days of placement. That 30% of Essential Core Records and Placement Agreements had been completed prior to admission may be due to screening purposes or may suggest that previous attempts had been made to accommodate the child and had failed. 17

19 An interesting finding of the audit was that more parents than carers had signed the Placement Agreement section of the Essential Core Records. There is no legal requirement for parents to sign an agreement and in cases of compulsory measures of care they are likely to refuse to sign. In contrast, foster carers would be expected to sign a placement agreement, but they had only done so in half of cases. Local authorities who took part in the Scott and Hill study felt that the Essential Core Record and Placement Agreement form was a [ ] useful structure for recording information and provided a mechanism for gathering information but commented that it was too detailed and lengthy making it time consuming to complete. They said that social workers good intentions to complete the missing information were often overtaken by other priorities. The file audit found that two thirds of records had not been updated which also suggests that social workers may not have had sufficient time to update them. Essential Background Record Half of the cases which were audited had an Essential Background Record but the file auditors comments indicated that the record was one of the least popular forms in the Looking After Children family. In most cases the form had not been updated, although some file auditors pointed out that information was available in other formats or was held electronically and, therefore, was not kept on file. Health and education information was not well completed. This may suggest that information is not being shared between social work and other agencies. Indeed, some file auditors were keen to talk about the absence of information from other agencies, particularly health and education. They said that there were difficulties in obtaining the information in some instances because agreed procedures with other agencies had not yet been fully implemented. The local authorities who responded to the Scott and Hill (2003) study made similar comments. Although they felt that the Essential Background Record provided a clear structure for recording information, including a useful summary of key information about the child or young person, they mentioned that it was often difficult to obtain information from other agencies or get their co-operation to complete the relevant sections of the form. In both the file audit and the Scott and Hill study there were suggestions that the Essential Core Record and Placement Agreement and the Essential Background Record should be combined. Care Plans 70% of files which were audited had a completed Care Plan. The quality of the information in the completed Care Plans was generally good but some plans had not been updated for more than 6 months. Some file auditors commented that this was because the minute of the review was used as an alternative to updating the care plan in their authority. The local authorities who took part in the Scott and Hill (2003) study felt that the Care Plan was a useful form for describing the key objectives in caring for the child and enabled practitioners to set [ ] clear areas for further work [ ] based around the seven developmental dimensions. However, some felt that the Care Plan was time consuming and repetitive and there was a particular criticism that the Care Plan was weak or inadequate when considering plans for rehabilitation and permanency. This issue was not a finding of the audit but has been raised by the project managers groups. It is a statutory requirement for all accommodated children to have a care plan. 18

20 Day to Day Placement Arrangements Almost 75% of children in the file audit who had been accommodated for less than 6 weeks had a completed Day to Day Placements form compared to 43% of those who had been accommodated for more than 2 years. In 82% of cases where there was a completed Day to Day Placements form this related to the child s current placement. This indicates that the form is being used appropriately. The quality of information in these forms was generally good but many of the forms had not been updated for more than 6 months and none of the file auditors mentioned that there were alternative ways of updating the form in their authority as there was with the Care Plan. Some of the local authorities who took part in the Scott and Hill (2003) study felt that the Day to Day Placements Arrangements form was time consuming and this may explain why practitioners are often failing to update them. Signatures had only been fully completed for the Day to Day Placements Arrangements forms in 38% of cases and not completed at all in 20% of cases. This finding is of concern in terms of accountability, particularly as the aim of the form is to ensure that actions from the Care Plan are carried out timeously by the person who is identified as being responsible. Reviews Reviews had been carried out within the statutory timescales in 80% of cases which were audited. 84% of cases had a completed social workers review report and just over two thirds of the cases had a completed carers report. Young persons and parents reports were much less likely to be found on file. In the Scott and Hill (2003) study some of the respondents expressed the view that the focus of the social workers report was too narrow and they felt it duplicated other review records. Most, however, did not want to omit any of the information from the form and some respondents felt that there should be more space for narrative comment. File auditors indicated that the child s development section of the carers report had been fully completed in more than three quarters of cases. The questions within the carers review form on child development are based around the seven developmental dimensions that are integral to the Looking After Children framework. The high level of completion and quality of information in this area indicates that foster carers and residential workers are familiar with the 7 developmental dimensions and are able to use these appropriately when describing the child s development. The majority of additional reports which were submitted to reviews (144 out of 275) were submitted by education. Only a small number were submitted by health. This may be further evidence of difficulties in sharing information between social work and health. Assessment and Action Records The file audit found that the Assessment and Action Records were the least well used part of the Looking After Children materials. Only 9% of children who might have been expected to have a record had one. Some authorities reported that they had not implemented the Assessment and Action Records. Scott and Hill (2003) also found that the Assessment and Action Records were used less regularly in practice than the planning and review forms. Some authorities had not implemented the records although several of them commented that the records were [ ] the best component of the Looking After Children system which indicates that when the forms are used practitioners find them useful. Some respondents in the Scott and Hill study also commented that the Assessment and Action Records were too long. 19

21 Possible Revisions of the Looking After Children forms One of the most important findings from the file audit is that implementation of the Looking After Children materials is not uniform across the 29 authorities. A number of authorities explained that they have taken a decision not to implement some forms, for example, the Assessment and Action Records, or not to implement some or all of the forms in respect of specific children, for example those accommodated prior to the date of implementation or those children who are living with relatives or friends. It is also evident that some forms are not routinely completed or updated because of recent changes in practice. For example, some file auditors pointed out that Care Plans had not been updated because it was now common practice in their area to use the minute of the review of the Care Plan as the updated Care Plan. The lack of signatures on many forms, particularly where these imply agreement or consent rather than authorship, featured frequently in the file auditors comments. In some cases this was acknowledged to be due to the age of a child or the lack of co-operation from parents. Two file auditors made the suggestion that it would be good practice to record the reason for the lack of a signature. Filing and the location of forms also caused some local authorities difficulties and gave rise to a number of comments from file auditors. The practice of retaining some of the forms in residential units was noted as was the practice of having a separate review file for the child where some of the review documents such as the Carers Report, Young Person s Report and Parents Report are kept. The issue of information not being kept up to date, needs to be addressed by individual local authorities. Some of the findings such as problems with sharing information between different agencies will be addressed through ongoing developments in relation to information sharing and integrated assessment. In both the file audit and Scott and Hill (2003) local authorities commented that the Looked After Children materials provide a good basis for information gathering but that time constraints often result in incomplete use of the system and forms not being updated regularly. This suggests that the following revisions to the Looking After Children forms may be helpful (see Annex 3): consider merging some of the details from the Essential Core Record and Placement Agreement form with the Essential Background Record to form an Essential Information Record; the Placement Agreement aspects of the Essential Core Record could be transferred to the Day to Day Placement Arrangements form along with the information relevant to immediate health care needs, contact and education under the headings which already exist in this form; alternatively, as has been suggested by some authorities, the Day to Day Placement form could be combined with the Care Plan. It would, however, be important to ensure the details of the implementation of the Care Plan were kept up to date if this change was adopted. This might be an option when the child is placed in a residential setting where a placement agreement is not a legal requirement as it is for foster placements; and use of the 7 developmental dimensions was good in both the social workers review report and the carers review report which tends to indicate familiarity of and a good understanding of using these dimensions as tools for describing a child s development. It is suggested therefore that the use of the seven developmental dimensions be retained if the review forms are revised. 20

22 Annex 1 - The Sample Group Local authority Total number of looked Sample size after and accommodated children 1 Glasgow City Council (2.1%) City of Edinburgh (4.9%) 2 Fife (6%) rth Lanarkshire (7%) Renfrewshire (7.1%) Aberdeen City (7.5%) Dundee (8.5%) Highland (8%) West Lothian (9%) Dumfries and Galloway (9.3%) Aberdeenshire (10.1%) rth Ayrshire (10.3%) South Lanarkshire (10.5%) East Ayrshire (12.2%) Falkirk (13%) 3 West Dunbartonshire (7.6%) Scottish Borders (8.5%) Angus (8.6%) East Lothian (9.7%) Stirling (10.6%) Inverclyde (11.8%) Argyll and Bute (12.7%) Moray (12.7%) 4 Clackmannanshire 52 5 (9.6%) East Dunbartonshire 41 5 (12.2%) East Renfrewshire 39 5 (12.8%) Shetland Islands 27 5 (18.5%) Eileen Siar 17 5 (29.4%) Orkney Islands 15 5 (33.3%) 5 Perth and Kinross 121 Did not take part South Ayrshire 100 Did not take part Midlothian 100 Did not take part TOTAL 32 local authorities 6, (6.8%) 21

23 Annex 2 - Local authority file audit questionnaire FRONT SHEET Local Authority (Please complete using ticks, letters or numbers, as appropriate, in the boxes provided) Individual File Audit Code: (A list of individual codes is provided for each authority) Date of File Audit: Year LA Implemented LAC materials: Day Month Year (All the following information should be available in the Essential Core Record and Placement Agreement (ECR) or in the Essential Background Record (EBR) if these exist and are up to date. If not please complete where possible from other sources in the case record) Age of Child at Date of Audit: 0-16 Gender: Male Female (Question 2 ECR) Date child was accommodated: (Question 3 ECR) Day Month Year (Question 8 ECR if this is the first or only ECR, Question 10 EBR if there have been changes of placement since the child first accommodated and the ECR updated) How long has this child been accommodated? (The lengths of time accommodated have been used to reflect statutory review requirements). Under 6 weeks 6 weeks to 4_ months 4_ months to 10_ months 10_ months to 2 years Over 2 years 22

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