1 Independent Reviewing Service Annual Report

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1 1 Independent Service Annual Report

2 Sheffield City Council Independent Service Annual Report 2014/15 The Contribution of Independent Officers to Quality Assuring and Improving Services for Children in Care The Local Authority is legally mandated to appoint Independent Officers (IRO) and ensure that one is allocated to each child in care. Children may be in care as a result of a Court Order or following a request from a parent (or indeed an older young person where they are judged to have the competence to make an informed decision). The placing Local Authority has responsibilities to the children and young people in its care, irrespective of the legal basis on which they are placed or the geographical location of where they are living. In Sheffield a high proportion of children in care live within the city and/or within 20 miles of the child s home address. (See appendix 1) The statutory functions of an IRO are detailed within the IRO Handbook (2011) and summarised as: o Chairing the child s review; o Monitoring the child s case on an on-going basis. Within these functions are responsibilities: o Promoting the voice wishes and feelings of the child; o Ensuring that plans for looked after children are based on a detailed and informed assessment, are up to date, effective and provide a real and genuine response to each child s needs; o Making sure that the child understands how an advocate could help and his/her entitlement to one; o Offering a safeguard to prevent any drift in care planning for looked after children and the delivery of services to them (see IRO Handbook paragraphs 3.39 and 7.23); 2 Independent Service Annual Report

3 o Monitoring the activity of the local authority as a corporate parent in ensuring that Care / Pathway Plans have given proper consideration and weight to the child s wishes and feelings and that, where appropriate, the child or young person fully understands the implications of any changes made to his/her Care or Pathway Plan. This Annual Independent Service report provides the quantitative and qualitative evidence relating to the IRO Services in Sheffield as required by statutory guidance and summarised in the key functions and responsibilities above. The Annual Report covers the period 01/04/14 31/03/15 although, where appropriate acknowledges any changes made between those dates and the time of writing. The IRO Annual Report will be presented for ratification to The Corporate Parenting Board and the Sheffield Safeguarding Children Board and made available both internally and externally on the Council Intranet & Internet. Purpose of service and legal context The Independent Review Officers (IRO) Service is set within the framework of the updated IRO Handbook, linked to revised Care Planning Regulations and Guidance which were introduced in April The responsibility of the IRO then changed from the management of the Review process to a wider overview of the case including regular monitoring and follow-up between Reviews. The IRO has a key role in relation to the improvement of care planning for children Looked After and for challenging drift and delay. The NCB research, The Role of the Independent Officers in England (NCB, March 2014) [1] outlined a number of important recommendations with three having a particular influence on IROs work plan priorities: 1. Where IROs identify barriers to their ability to fulfil their role, or systemic failures in the service to looked after children, they must raise this formally with senior managers. These challenges and the response should be included in the Annual Report. 2. IROs method for monitoring cases and how this activity is recorded should be clarified. 3 Independent Service Annual Report

4 3. A review of IROs core activities and additional tasks should be undertaken. There is a need to establish whether IROs additional activities compromise independence or capacity. Key messages learning and improvement This Annual IRO report provides quantitative and qualitative evidence relating to the IRO services in Sheffield, as required by statutory guidance. Improvement activities that were previously highlighted for 2014/15 included: 1. Further implementation of the Child Centred Review process. 2. Monitoring of the introduction of a combined Child s Plan & Meeting Record. 3. Work to ensure the introduction of a child s Placement Plan and the monitoring of its use and effectiveness. 4. Ensure IROs use the IRS Monitoring Form (introduced in December 2013) to audit the quality of practice, including the completion of reports and statutory duties. The Monitoring Form to be completed at the point of each Review and the IRS Service Manager to collate findings to share with Social Care management. 5. To embed the revised Dispute Resolution Process (DRP) and to link with Alerts raised at Stage 1 through deficits identified within the IRS Monitoring Form. 6. Identify funding for a dedicated 0.5 IRO to work with Youth Justice with young people who are looked after by virtue of being remanded in Youth Detention Accommodation (YDA). 7. To identify children who are in care as a result of an adoption breakdown and to influence positive adoption assessment and matching to minimise future breakdowns and learn from those that have taken place. 8. To monitor and meet national and local Performance Indicators. 9. To positively impact on the timely completion of health assessments. 10. To positively impact on the timely completion of Personal Education Plans. 4 Independent Service Annual Report

5 11. For IROs to work consistently both with the statutory guidelines and with each other, to ensure positive outcomes for children. 12. To monitor the quality of Age Assessments undertaken for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) and ensure that these children & young people are being offered services compatible with both their age and the level of trauma they have experienced in reaching the UK. 13. Continued challenge regarding the delay in policy implementation with specific reference to the introduction of the Placement Plan & the Delegated Authority tool. Policies relating to Staying Put, Special Guardianship and the Children in Care Financial Procedures. 14. Maintaining IRO caseloads within the range of as recommended within the IRO Handbook. Progress against these activities can be summarised: 1. Child Centred Reviews have not progressed in the manner that was anticipated. The adoption of the pure model has been more limited than had been hoped for. This has been for a number of factors, the responsibility for many of which sit within the Independent Service although learning has shown that frequent use of such a model has not been welcomed by some children and young people. Notwithstanding this features of the model have been evident within a significant number of reviews. The use of techniques such as Like & admire, What is working & not working have allowed children s voices to be better heard and for children to have a powerful say in the prioritisation of what is discussed in their reviews. As such the benefit to children has, perhaps, been wider than had been anticipated when an aim of broadening the use of the model to 10% of children in care had been planned. Further work since the period in question will now focus on confirming that the child has been visited and consulted on the manner in which their review will be carried out, utilising elements from the model and also from other techniques such as the encouragement of older children to chair their own review. 2. Care Plan & Meeting Record. IROs have highlighted that this report has not been used in the way that was planned. Whereas the meeting record has been completed, the Care Plan section has frequently not been. Where it has there has been a danger that it has contained information drawn only from the meeting in question rather than a consolidated and updated Care Plan. 5 Independent Service Annual Report

6 I am aware that the issues highlighted are being addressed and where they continue I would expect these to be highlighted by the IRO through audit and completion of a Monitoring Form. 3. The Child s Placement Plan was introduced on 01/01/15 with an expectation that all children received into care from date should have one on admission or by the date of the 5 day meeting. Children who were already in care were to have a Placement Plan by the time of their next Review after 01/04/15. Neither of these things have consistently happened. Reports have been provided to Fieldwork Services on the failure to complete Placement Plan on children accommodated. IROs have also been inconsistent in raising the absence of a Placement Plan and have been instructed that the absence of a Placement Plan must trigger an Alert to the Team Manager. At the point at which all children should have had a plan, there were actually only 131 for 506 children (less than 23%). 4. Monitoring Forms are in place and are being triggered to Team Managers. There is a need for education as to the need to respond where an Alert is triggered as this represents a quantitative deficit rather than the personal judgement which it is on occasion taken as. Within the Independent Service it is vital that there is a consistency and completeness of use. To ensure a consistency of use, the IRS Service Manager is now auditing the equivalent of 4 Reviews per full time IRO a month. Auditing against the Care Plan and CareAssess / Wisdom records is feedback individually to IROs and thematically to a newly instigated IRS Performance meeting. 5. Creation of links between the Monitoring Form & DRP Process. This has been achieved. The monitoring form is graded complement, good, specific deficit (alert) and serious concerns. Alerts trigger an Alert Response Form to the Team Manager. A serious concern will lead to a meeting at either stage 2 or 3 within the Dispute Resolution Process (DRP) see data later within report. 6. Funding for dedicated IRO time to work with young people remanded to youth detention accommodation (YDA). Maureen Hanniffy was appointed to this post on 03/11/2014. As the data within this report shows the number of young people remanded in this way has been, thankfully, low and decreasing. This is a reflection on the excellent work done by the Youth Justice Service. At the time of writing there are no young people remanded into youth detention accommodation. 7. Adoption disruptions / breakdowns are a tragedy for all involved. The number of children who re-enter care as a consequence of a breakdown is still not recorded although the author recognises the sensitivity of so doing. It is to be hoped that the amount of work being done within this area will minimise breakdowns but research is clear that where adoptions do break down, they are most likely 6 Independent Service Annual Report

7 to do so as the child enters adolescence. Time will therefore judge whether the national drive to reduce delay and ensure more children enjoy and benefit from the permanence of being adopted into a new family has fully addressed the need for high quality assessment & matching. National research has reported: Between April 1st 2000 and 31st March 2011, 37,335 children were adopted and of these 565 were known to have disrupted post order and information was available in the database. Nearly two thirds of disruptions occurred during the teenage years. Gender and ethnicity were not associated with greater risk of disruption. Beyond the Adoption Order; Challenges, Interventions & Adoption Disruption Department for Education, April [2] Whilst the focus on adoption during has centred largely on reducing delays; the learning from where adoptions disrupt needs to be built into the wider Service Action Plan. 8. Performance Indicator outcomes are detailed within this report. Frustratingly, despite the best efforts of all involved, both the timeliness of reviews and children s participation in reviews fell short of target by 0.1%. No attempt has been made to round up these figures in order to maintain a focus on improvement. Timeliness can be affected by many factors availability of staff and carers, timely notification of the accommodation of children to the Independent Service and simple human error in miscalculating dates. Once a review is out of timescale this has an on-going rolling impact. It therefore needs to be avoided and in particular date calculation by IROs and the timely notification to the Independent Service by Fieldwork Services would and will greatly improve this situation. The failure to report on 6 children entering care has recently had a 1.8% impact on this performance indicator, making it highly probable that performance in the year will fall short of target. 9. Health Assessments. The IRS Service Manager has been involved in this. IROs have monitored to ensure that children have a Medical Consent on being accommodated and that health assessments are done in a timely manner. The impact of this, along with the work by many others led to improvement in the completion of health assessments from 81.0% in April 2014 to 87.3% in March The improvement detailed has largely been maintained, standing at 89.0% in May 2015 and 85.0% in September Figures were the best for 5 years in May and in line with comparator groups. 10. Personal Education Plans. There are approximately 350 children in Sheffield who attend School Reception to Year 11.Personal Education Plans are needed for all these children. Considerable work has been undertaken by the Virtual School to increase the 7 Independent Service Annual Report

8 number of Personal Education Plans (PEPs) in place. IROs assist with this in monitoring at the point of each Review. Within the Virtual School s Annual Report [3] it was reported that by the end of the summer term in July % of children had an indate PEP with a further 6% completed and awaiting sign off. This compares to 85.0% in September Notwithstanding this success, statutory guidance is clear that a PEP is to be in place for a wider age range of children, both preschool and in line with the raising of the age at which young people can leave education. All looked after children must have a care plan, of which the PEP is an integral part. The PEP (pre-school to age 18) is an evolving record of what needs to happen for looked after children to enable them to make expected progress and fulfil their potential. The PEP should reflect the importance of a personalised approach to learning that meets the identified educational needs of the child, raises aspirations and builds life chances. Promoting the education of looked after children - Statutory guidance for local authorities. Department for Education, July [4] Sheffield is therefore falling short in respect of both pre-school and post-year 11 children and young people. Whilst it is acknowledged that this is linked to the currently truncated role of the Virtual School in working only with school age year 11 children, this does not make it any more acceptable. As an interim fix IROs will ensure that educational needs are addressed within the Pathway Plan but this is an inadequate work around and the fundamental issues relating to the broadening of the role of the Virtual School and the provision of PEPs for all children as detailed in Statutory Guidance needs resolution. The author is aware that within the Virtual School Annual Report a target for as being (to) work with a range of colleagues and services to expand (the Virtual School s) remit to cover children after by the local authority in the pre-school and post-16 education communities. The Independent Service welcomes this but also notes the associated need to ensure that Personal Education Pans are in place for this full span of children and young people. 11. Age Assessments of Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers. There were 4 Unaccompanied Asylum Seeker Children (UASC) within the children in care cohort at 01/04/14 and 13 at 31/03/15. This number has continued to rise and at the time of writing there were 20 UASC age assessed as under 18 years of age. 12. Delays in policy implementation have continued. The delays in finalising a Staying Put policy have been particularly difficult and challenging for each young person involved, they are only 18 once and uncertainty has been, at the very least, unhelpful to them and their Foster Carers. Where a young person was planning to attend university this has added a pressure at an already very stressful time of their lives. 8 Independent Service Annual Report

9 At the time of writing the policies in relation to Staying Put, Special Guardianship Orders and the more general children in care procedures; have received officer ratification but not political sign off which I presume has inhibited the ability to circulate and launch. Despite assurances given at the beginning of August the officer ratified policies are not embedded within the TriX policies and the overall Financial Procedures that are embedded are the wrong ones. The author is also aware that work is still on-going with the Staying Put policy. Having visited another Local Authority the challenge with policies appears to include that Sheffield lacks the dedicated post(s) to develop such policy that existed, to great effect, in the authority visited. It was clear in the authority visited that the presence of policy development posts and welfare rights posts coupled with a willingness to purchase expertise in policy writing had significantly moved the development of the policy on in a timely manner. 13. Caseloads the service has sought to maintain caseloads within the range recommended in the IRO Handbook of We have however exceeded our specific target of caseloads at 60 with the average in the period at 63. (see detail on pages 11 & 12). Professional Profile of the IRO Service The IRO Service sits within the Safeguarding & Independent Service with its core functions consisting of reviewing and monitoring Care Plans for children in care and monitoring the Local Authority in respect of its corporate parenting and safeguarding responsibilities. This location and line management in being independent from that of social work teams is compatible with guidance and regulation. The Safeguarding & Independent Service is based in Howden House, separate from any other children & family services. Such a physical separation is a positive benefit in embodying the independence of the Service but it has been evident that such physical separation has led, unhelpfully, to a greater reliance on electronic forms of communication (telephone & ) due to the time limitations of travelling to have, what could previously have been spontaneous, face to face conversations. The Independent Service staffing has remained largely stable during the period in review. As at 01/04/15 there were 8.5 full time equivalent staff. We have benefited from retaining the services of a number of staff who have reduced hours, either as they work towards retirement or as they share their role as an IRO with another part time role in another service. Kathleen Paessler, Kay Samuels, Margaret Tully and Anne Ward all now work part time. 9 Independent Service Annual Report

10 In addition to Vanessa Mannix and Ruth Merry (as reported in the last annual report), we have also been pleased to welcome Maureen Hanniffy to the team. Maureen has significant experience, most recently in the Fostering Service, and will combine her generic role as an IRO with a specific focus on those young people who are looked after as a result of being remanded to youth detention accommodation (YDA). Fred Butlin left the Service during the period under Review. We are grateful that he maintained involvement on a reduced basis in order to maintain a consistency of IRO allocation for a number of young people until they reached their 18 th birthday. IROs are part of Safeguarding & Independent Service and are qualified Social Workers. In terms of diversity, the profile of the service is not consistent with that within the children in care population. It is hoped that future recruitment will be able to address Male Female Ethnicity IROs White British 1 White German Children in White British 372 Care White (Other) 36 Mixed 63 Asian or Asian British 26 Black or Black British 23 Other ethnic groups Independent Service Annual Report

11 Team structure: PAUL MASSEY JULIE HEATHFIELD ANDREW HARMER MAGGIE MCMANAMON KATHLEEN PAESSLER TAMSEN NORTH FRED BUTLIN BRYONY MARRIOTT MARGARET TULLY ANNE WARD JOHN HUTCHINSON KAY SAMUELS RUTH MERRY SERVICE KAY SAMUELS MAUREEN HANNIFFY SERVICE VANESSA MANNIX SERVICE Quantitative information - Looked After population and the IRO service The Looked After population for 2014/2015 has ranged from 526 to 537 and was 532 as at 31/03/15. IRO caseloads have been between per f.t.e. IRO. This compares with the recommended case load of as set out in the IRO Handbook. A total of 1553 Reviews were Chaired by IROs in the year ending 31 st March Independent Service Annual Report

12 Reviews are held at intervals of within 28 days of first being accommodated, within a maximum of 3 months from that date and then at intervals of a maximum of 6 months. Whilst the overall number of children in care has maintained remained relatively stable through the year (see page 11) there has been a large number of both admissions and discharges (282 and 281 respectively see below). When viewed as a proportion of the total number of children in the city, the number of children in care is lower than comparator authorities (Core Cities & Statistical Neighbours): Overall number of looked after children Children looked after at 31 March - Rate per 10,000 population aged 0-17 rate per 10,000 population Previous outturns Sheffield Core cities Yorkshire & the Humber Statistical neighbours old Statistical neighbours England Independent Service Annual Report

13 Children looked after per 10,000 population aged under Mar-07 Mar-08 Mar-09 Mar-10 Mar-11 Mar-12 Mar-13 Mar-14 Sheffield Core cities Yorkshire & the Humber Figures exclude children looked after under an agreed series of short term placements. In Sheffield the majority of such children are provided with services, including short breaks, under Section 17 of the Children Act This is in line with assessed need and parental choice. Only 3 children were provided with short breaks under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 at 01/04/14 and only 2 at 31/03/15. Age Profile of Children at point of Admission The majority of children and young people who started to be Looked After were less than 1 at the point of their being first accommodated. Surprisingly the next largest group were aged 17 with a relatively level spread at other ages. The 2 young people who are listed as being 18 at the point of coming into care were unaccompanied asylum seekers who, after age assessment, were age assessed at Independent Service Annual Report

14 Age at Number of Percentage of Admission Admissions all Admissions * There were 34 care episodes that began at age 17: Apr 14 May 14 Jun 14 Accommodation under S20 (single period of accommodation) 17 Detained in LA accommodation under PACE In LA on remand or committed for trial/sentence Under police protection in LA accommodation Total Jul 14 Aug 14 Sep 14 Oct 14 Nov 14 Dec 14 Jan 15 Feb 15 Mar 15 Total 14 Independent Service Annual Report

15 The 2 young people who are detailed as being accommodated at age 18 were Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children who, upon age assessment, were found to be 18. Permanency Outcomes The profile in terms of children leaving care within the year: 273 children and young people ceased to be accommodated as children in care. Of these 74 left as they reached the age of children were adopted, 21 made subject to Special Guardianship Orders and 31 to Child Arrangement Orders 94 in total. Removing the 20 young people who had episodes of remand and the 2 whose care was made up of a series of short breaks: o During the year 01/04/14 31/03/ children entered care and 273 were discharged. o The total number of children in care ranged from 526 in June 2014 to 537 in November 2014 at 31/03/15 there were 532. o Of these 2 were receiving their cared as a series of short breaks. The discharge reasons for those children and young people who ceased to be looked after were: 15 Independent Service Annual Report

16 Discharge Reason Number of Children / Young People Accommodation on remand ended 9 Adopted - Application Unopposed 29 Adopted - Consent Dispensed With 13 Age assessed over 17 not Independent Living or 6 Transition to Adult Services. Care taken over by another LA in UK 1 Died 1 Left care to live with person with no parent 33 responsibility Moved abroad 1 Moved to independent living - formal advice 30 Moved to independent living - no formal advice 8 Planned return home to parents/other parent resp. 72 Residence Order / Child Arrangement Order 31 Sentenced to Custody 15 Special Guardianship Order (Former Foster Carers) 10 Special Guardianship Order (Not Former Foster 11 Carers) Transferred to care of adult social services 3 Unplanned return home to parents/other parental 13 resp. Total Independent Service Annual Report

17 The young person who sadly died was a child with multiple disabilities and additional health needs. On a month on month basis between 96.0% 97.3% of Reviews were held within timescale (see page 22). Children in Care 01/04/14 31/03/15: CHILDREN IN CARE Apr- 14 May- 14 Jun- 14 Jul- 14 Aug- 14 Sep- 14 Oct- 14 Nov- 14 Dec- 14 Jan- 15 Feb- 15 Mar- 15 TOTAL Number of Admissions Number of Discharges Number of Remands Number of Special Guardianship Orders Number of Child Arrangement Orders (Residence Order) Number of Adoptions Number of Adoptions v- Cumulative total n/a Number of LAC at month end n/a IRO Caseloads The IRO Handbook recommends a caseload for IROs between 50 & 70. A national benchmarking survey (December 2013) identified that the average caseload for IROs ranged between 50 and 95. Within Sheffield a commitment was made to seek to ensure caseloads of 60. In point of fact IROs have had caseloads of between per f.t.e. worker during 2014/15. Caseload numbers are but one factor that equates to workload. The number of reviews can vary in frequency. The geographical location, the stability or otherwise of the placement, the quality of social work practice can all impact of workload. 17 Independent Service Annual Report

18 Month Meeting Type Review (28 Days) Review (91Days) Review (183 Days) Grand Total Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Grand Total Independent Service Annual Report

19 19 Independent Service Annual Report The Fostering Service is also required to review an approval to foster at any point when it feels the need to do so. An allegation or complaint might well trigger a review of approval, as could any major change in household composition for example a major illness, divorce or separation. In addition one 0.4 f.t.e. IRO has undertaken Foster Carer Reviews. Statutorily every year The Fostering Service is required to review approvals as a Foster Carer, and consider whether they should continue to be approved as a Foster Carer and/or if there should be any changes to the terms of approval. National Standards make it clear that the first annual review report has to go back to the Fostering Panel. After that, there is no requirement in the Standards for annual review reports to go back to panel, although the Fostering Service can choose to do so. o One IRO (0.5) has worked with young people remanded to custody (Youth Detention Accommodation) developing links with the Youth Justice Service and the Secure Estate o Liaison with the Children with Disabilities Services and sitting as a member of their Access to Services Panel. o Liaison with the Virtual School & as a member of the Virtual School Networking meetings. o Presentation of workshops on the IRO Handbook to Social Workers. o Attending regional IRO meetings. o Link work activity with teams. During , IROs have maintained a number of additional responsibilities: Apr-14 Jun-14 Aug-14 Oct-14 Dec-14 Feb-15 Meeting Type L.A.C. Review (183 Days) Meeting Type L.A.C. 0 Meeting Type L.A.C. Review (91Days) Meeting Type L.A.C. Review (28 Days)

20 In Sheffield responsibility for undertaking Foster Carer reviews rests within the Independent Service. Ensuring that all Foster Carer reviews are undertaken annually has proved problematic during the year and will be further addressed in The IRO who has undertaken these reviews is transferring to review children but has agreed to produce a report highlighting the progress made, barriers experienced and her recommendations. This report will be made available both to the Fostering Service and, at her request, to the Director of Children and Families. The IRS Service Manager has: o Met regularly with regional colleagues. o Planned a regional IRO conference (that took place in Sheffield in May 2015). o Met with CAFCASS to review the CAFCASS IRS Protocol and explore ways in which regional events and training can be established. o Sat as a member of the Corporate Parenting Panel, Strategy Board & sub-boards focusing on participation, health, adoption, placement resources and the lifestyle and vulnerability of children in care. o Met regularly with the Assistant Directors to raise specific or thematic issues of complement or concern. o Met regularly with the Service Managers in Permanence & through care to raise specific or thematic issues. o Attended Fieldwork Operational Business meetings as agreed. o Audited to ensure best outcomes for children in care. 20 Independent Service Annual Report

21 The Child s Voice The Children in Care Survey The Children in Care Council led on undertaking a survey of children in care in October A total of 510 surveys in two versions were sent with a copy going to each child or young person. The responses were: 0 12 years of age 78 out of 250 = 31% years of age 41 out of 250 = 16% Responses within the Surveys included: o 91 / 93% knew their Social Worker s name. o 63 / 90% felt their Social Worker was helpful. o 53 / 76% felt that their Social Worker spent enough time with them. o 58 / 85% knew their IROs name. o 85% of the age group knew how to contact their IRO and 78% knew why they had an IRO. o 70 /97% felt safe at school. o 92 / 97% felt safe at home. o 88 / 70% have a life story book or memory box Action Plans were drawn up on the basis of the information received. 21 Independent Service Annual Report

22 Entitlements and Advocacy The All Party Parliamentary Group for Looked-After Children and Care Leavers Inquiry (2013) asked children and young people what the most important entitlements for looked-after children and care leavers were. The All Party Parliamentary Group selected the five that they children and young people said were most important for looked-after children and for care leavers. Advocacy for children in care was provided by NYAS during the period covered by this report. They detailed that 34 children accessed the service in quarter 1, 28 in quarter 2 and 34 in quarter 3. NYAS did not provide any data or details on the provision of advocacy in quarter 4. Advocacy services passed to the Sheffield Children s Involvement Team from 01/04/15. During the 9 months for which data is available, key themes were identified as follows: o Placement and views of the young person not being given consideration prior to a move. o Young people needing to be listened to and involved in the transition process. o Children & young people with learning difficulties / disabilities struggling to be involved in decisions affecting their lives. o UASC requiring advocacy during age assessments. o Support in Reviews and/or meeting with Social Workers. o Support in communication with family members. Drawing out themes has not been easy but there has been positive feedback from young people in receipt of advocacy. IROs supported the move to provide this service in-house given the Children s Involvement Team s greater accessibility and ability to respond along with the high regard which the Children s Involvement are held in ensuring that the child s voice is heard. o Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers o Children with whose first language is not English 22 Independent Service Annual Report

23 o Children in secure accommodation o Children placed at a distance Advocacy provision in Sheffield during currently passed from being provided by NYAS to The Children s Involvement Team the Youth Justice Board commissions advocacy services for young people detained in young offender institutions (YOIs) and secure training centres (STCs). IROs routinely check that children and young people know about advocacy and how it can support them in having a real say in decisions affecting their lives. IROs need to do more to ensure that children have access to advocacy. Advocacy can be essential for the children and young people and these processes can make a vital contribution to safeguarding and promoting their welfare and rights. To facilitate this the Service proposes to change the questions within the IRO s Chair s Report to not just ask if the child requires an Advocate but to first ask who advocates on behave of the child. Where there is nobody fulfilling this roll it would then ask whether the child required an Advocate (Yes / No) and direct a referral to the advocacy service. 23 Independent Service Annual Report

24 Timeliness of reviews An average of 96.9%% Reviews took place within the statutory timescales (against a target of 97%). IROs completed some reviews in a series of meetings to ensure the relevant people were involved and the meeting remained child focused and friendly. Percentage of looked after children reviews Apr-14 May Jun-14 Jul-14 Aug-14 Sep Oct-14 Nov Dec-14 Jan-15 Feb-15 Mar-15 Where reviews were held out of timescale this has a cumulative effect on the out turn, with subsequent reviews also being out of timescale. Within the reasons for late reviews were: 24 Independent Service Annual Report

25 Processes have been strengthened to ensure that reviews are not inadvertently booked out of timescale by the IRO and I am also aware that action has been taken by Social Care in relation to late notifications. Children and young people s preparation and involvement in reviews An average of 92.9% of children and young people participated in their Reviews for the year ending 31 st March 2015 (against a target of 93%). Participation includes attending and/or contributing to their Review. 25 Independent Service Annual Report

26 Participation of looked after children in Apr May-14 Jun-14 Jul-14 Aug-14 Sep-14 Oct-14 Nov-14 Dec-14 Jan Independent Service Annual Report

27 There have been a total of 35 occasions where a child has not participated in their review (out of a total of 1553 reviews during ): Reason Total Child s disability 1 IRO decision that it was not in the child s best interest to attend. 10 Refusal to participate by the child or young person 14 Child did not participate or complete a consultation booklet 10 Total 35 Total Total 2 0 Child's Disability IRO decision in the best interest of the child not to particpate Not seen/consulation received Refusal to participate by Child/young person 27 Independent Service Annual Report

28 Participation Trends Child Under 4 at Time of Review Child did not attend - no contribution Child did not attend - contributed via other means Child did not attend - contributed via advocate Child attended - spoke for him/herself Management oversight The revised statutory Guidance states that operational social work managers must consider the decisions from the Review before they are finalised. This is due in part to the need to ensure any resource implications have been addressed. Once the decisions are completed the Manager has 5 days to raise any queries or objections. There are significant issues with Social Work Manager compliance with this system: o Each Decision triggers a message to the responsible Team Manager with an expectation that they respond within 5 working days. o Where the completion of a Monitoring Form triggers an Alert the Team Manager has 5 working days to respond through the completion of an Alert Response Form. During the period to 31/03/15 when the Alert Response Form was added, there were 91 specific alerts highlighted, triggering 79 Alert Response Forms of which 72 were completed and responded. o Over the full period under review the Monitoring Form outcomes were: 28 Independent Service Annual Report

29 Compliment Standard Specific Alerts Serious Concerns Total: 802 o This highlights both the general quality of work being undertaken but also that only 51% of reviews are showing as having a completed Monitoring Form. Quality Assurance of the IRO Service The Independent Service introduced during the period in question, a Monitoring Form to be completed at the time of each Review. This Monitoring Form was later amended to include an option of a fourfold trigger : 1. Complement on the quality of work undertaken. 2. Standard (Good everything in place). 3. Alert (Specific deficits which need addressing). 4. Serious Concerns (leading to the convening of a meeting within the Dispute Resolution Process). Where an Alert is identified this will trigger an Alert Response Form to the Team Manager detailing the deficits and requiring a response as to how these are to be addressed. The Monitoring Form contains questions relating to: o The timely completion of the Social Worker s report. o The attendance of the Social Worker at the Review. o Recording of statutory visits. o Personal Education Plan. 29 Independent Service Annual Report

30 o Health Plan and health consents. o Placement Plan. o Child s / Pathway Plan. o Child s wishes & feelings. o Permanence Plan. Whilst detailed reporting was not possible during the period in question, this is now being developed and will be available to allow reporting against both the outcomes and rationale behind the outcomes. This will be included in the next Annual Report. In addition to the Monitoring Forms the IRS Service Manager has completed or been involved in completing the following audits: o Actions taken on accommodating a child. o Adoption delay. o Health plans & health consents. o Monitoring Forms & Monitoring Form outcomes against CareAssess records including Care / Pathway Plan. o Placement Plans o Post-18 placement sufficiency. 30 Independent Service Annual Report

31 Identifying good practice, problem resolution and escalation IROs have had to challenge practitioners and managers within Stage 1 of the Dispute Resolution Process (where there have been specific deficits) on 85 occasions and with Stage 2 (where serious concerns have been identified) of that process on 8 occasions. There were no disputes within Stage 3 of the Dispute Resolution Process. All informal challenges related to a mix of issues with the following reported most: Supervision and training IROs have scheduled monthly supervision (pro rata for part time staff) and ad-hoc supervision. Training has been attended on the basis of identified need and availability including 3 IROs attending a residential course for independent chairs run by Birmingham University. Additional areas of concern identified in In addition to those challenges highlighted in the Annual Report (and detailed on pages 5 9 above), the following have been identified and raised during the period covered by this report: 1. Changes in Social Worker. Some children have experienced significant number of changes in keyworkers and/or in the number of Social Workers visiting them as a result of duty workers covering sickness or annual leave to undertake statutory visits. This was raised to me by Foster Carers at their Open Forum meeting in September A report in October 2014 showed: Number of Social Worker Number of During child s time in care Children Total 521 The length of time that a child has been in care will impact on the number of changes in Social Worker but the data does support some children s perceptions of having multiple workers and this does not include other workers who have been involved on a duty basis. 31 Independent Service Annual Report

32 It is appreciated that reorganisation within Fieldwork will remove some of the need to change allocation for purely structural reasons and hoped therefore that this will have an on-going impact. 2. Children s Wishes & Feelings The consultation booklets introduced during have proved positive with younger children but highlighted a need to explore alternative methods by which older children can offer their views. An electronic process is being explored. This has proved positive in other Local Authorities and discussions are on-going with a provider. In addition to this two other processes are being planned to further embed children s wishes and feelings: o The introduction of a Mid-point Review within which the IRO will speak to a child who is aged 11+. This may be by telephone or in person. With younger children this conversation may be with the child or, where more appropriate, the carer. Such a review will allow both the progress checking of decisions made at the last review and a structure opportunity to ascertain the child s views on their Care Plan and how it is progressing. o Ensuring that the discussion detailed feeds into the manner in which their review will take place. (see also broadening the definition of child centred reviews below) 3. Broadening the implementation of Child Centred Reviews has not progressed as had been anticipated although features of the model and learning from it have been more widely introduced. During IROs will both ensure discussions with children about how they wish their review to be undertaken but also draw from a range of resources, including the Person Centred Review model as to what form this will take. As the work done on a Strength Based Approach is evaluated within child protection conferences, learning from this will also be assimilated. 4. Within the commentary about placement sufficiency, there has been an evident shortage of in-city foster placements for teenagers. Whilst it has been evident that the wider availability of placements has been significantly improved, appropriate placements for teenagers in Foster Care has remained a challenge. 5. The place of Permanent Foster Placements within a range of permanency options for children and young people has received further statutory clarity within Permanence, long-term foster placements and ceasing to look after a child (Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities, Department for Education, March 2015). [5] The process by which a placement is matched and confirmed as permanent by the local authority remains inconsistent, particularly with regard to Independent Fostering Agencies. 32 Independent Service Annual Report

33 6. The Service would contest that clarity and consistency are required in the allocation of Personal Advisors for young people post-16 and that this should not be determined by whether a young person is allocated within Permanence and Throughcare or the Children with Disabilities team. 7. The need for improvements in both pathway planning and Pathway Plans has been raised by IROs and acknowledged by the Permanence and Throughcare Service. Such plans are an important assessment in ensuring the smooth transition of a young person to adulthood and work is planned between the service and Permanence and Throughcare to create a Pathway Plan that is fit for purpose. 8. Auditing of children s files is difficult when the electronic storage system (Wisdom) appears to suffer from two regularly highlighted shortcomings: o Inappropriate filing and/or retention of multiple blank forms. o Inconsistent filing of key documents including legal papers, Adoption Support Plans and externally produced assessment reports. The service will continue to monitor these areas and feedback / challenge through the completion of an IRS Monitoring Form where necessary. 9. Refreshing is needed on the IRO-CAFCASS Protocol that has been signed between the two agencies. This is being achieved through regular meetings with CAFCASS, challenges to Legal Services where Court documentation has not been provided to IROs. Joint training between IROs and CAFCASS Guardians is planned for early Independent Service Annual Report

34 Areas for improvement Action Plan Targets for the following areas have been identified as detailed above and the service expects to deliver and/or monitor to ensure improvements by 31/03/2016. Following the ratification of this report discussion will take place to confirm more detailed responsibility for actions where these rest with Fieldwork / Provider Services or with the Independent Service and agree targets where applicable. It has been agreed that reporting on this Action Plan will be to the Corporate Parenting Strategy Panel at each of its meetings. What? How? Who? Maintain performance in the timeliness of review meetings at 97%. o Timely completion of Change in Circumstances Forms by Social Workers. Where CareFirst system issues are identified, provide guidance to Social Care staff to resolve and/or work around. Fieldwork Services o Allocation of IRO within 5 working days. o Ensuring IROs book reviews in timescale & where this is legitimately not possible, undertake the review in 2 parts to maintain timescales. Independent Service o Audit against dates set for next reviews to ensure these are set within statutory timescale. Maintain performance in children s participation in reviews at 93% o Audit against dates set for reviews of children subject to Placement Orders to ensure that these are within the locally set policy of a maximum of 3 monthly. o Audit, monitor and challenge to ensure that children are participating and that the form of participation is accurately recorded. Independent Service To increase children & young people s completion of consultation booklets. 34 Independent Service Annual Report o Investigate the introduction of an alternative electronic form of completing consultation as requested by older young people. Independent Service

35 o Contact has been made with two national companies offering systems. These have been demonstrated to the Children in Care Council who had a clear favourite. Re-vitalise child centred reviews through ensuring that children are fully consulted about how they wish their review to be undertaken and draw from a range of resources including those developed within the Person Centred Review Model to ensure that this happens. Monitor to ensure that Child s Plans are holistic and not a series of documents. o The development and implementation of this model will be pursued during o Compare and contrast work within child centred reviews to learning from the Safeguarding Service s Strength Based Approach when this is available. o Acknowledge the need to consult prior to reviews with the child and for the style of the review to arise from this consultation, rather than to be purely based on any single model. o Fieldwork Services to review the use of the Care Plan & Meeting Record and issue guidance as to its completion. o IROs to pick up and feedback where a Child s Plan is fragmented through the IRS Monitoring Form and issue an Alert to the Team Manager. Monitor the introduction of the Child s Placement Plan. All children should have a Placement Plan by the time of their next review after 01/04/15. Monitoring has shown that this has not been adequately implemented. o Re-affirmation of policy to be issued by Fieldwork Services. o IROs to pick up and feedback through the IRS Monitoring Form where a Placement Plan is not present and issue an Alert to Team Manager. IRS Monitoring Forms to be completed at the point of all Reviews and graded Complement, Standard (Good), Specific Issues (Alert) and Serious Concerns (leading to a meeting under the Dispute Resolution o Collation of these Alerts to be included within monthly reporting as detailed. o Audit of completed forms and the outcome of those forms to be available through monthly reporting. 35 Independent Service Annual Report Safeguarding & Independent Service Fieldwork Services. Independent Service. Fieldwork Services Independent Service Independent Service

36 Process). Agree who is best placed to collate information and learning from the cases of those children who have returned to care. Continue to monitor the timely completion of health consents and assessments through IRO audit, completion of the IRS Monitoring Form and liaison with the LAACH team. Continue to monitor and seek to improve the recorded rate of dental checks through IRO audit, completion of the IRS Monitoring For and liaison with the LAACH team. Continue to monitor the timely completion and reviews of Personal Education Plans through IRO audit, completion of the IRS Monitoring Form and liaison with the Virtual School Whilst the level of completion of Personal Education Plans for children of school age (5 16) has significantly increased, the Local Authority is not compliant in completing these plans for pre-school children or young people in education post-year 11. Petition for the extension of the Personal Education Plans to children in pre-school and young people post 36 Independent Service Annual Report o Liaison with Fieldwork and Adoption Services to understand the number of children involved and determine how learning from these cases can be collated to the benefit of all children. o Weekly reports are now in place giving a detailed position. o Deficits will be highlighted by IROs through their auditing and completion of an IRS Monitoring Form. o Ensuring that up to date information is available is directly tied into the completion and maintenance of the child s Placement Plan. o Investigate improved ways of recording dental checks. o Consider the feasibility of including dental check dates within the IRS Monitoring Form. o Virtual School to continue monitoring and analysis as at present. o Data from IRO audit through the IRS Monitoring Form to be available with the monthly performance reports. Fieldwork Services Adoption Service Fieldwork Services. LAACH Team. Independent Service Fieldwork Services. LAACH Team Independent Service. Virtual School. Independent Service. o Offer support to efforts and plans already in place. Independent Service.

37 year 11 as detailed within Promoting the Education of Looked After Children Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities, 2014). Monitor the quality, perceived accurateness and timeliness in completion of age assessments for unaccompanied asylum seeker children (UASC) and feedback to Permanence & Throughcare. Drift in care planning & the need to increase awareness of children s wishes and feelings. In completing audit activity against all the above, provide a monthly report of all Monitoring Forms to be available to IROs, for individual 1:1 discussions and challenge if necessary between the IRS Service Manager and IROs, for IRS Performance meetings, Safeguarding and Fieldwork Managements. There has been variable completion of Alerts by IROs and response to this challenge within Fieldwork. The Service will ensure that complements, alerts and the raising of the serious concerns are consistently undertaken by IROs and that the collation of these and the themes raised are feedback to Fieldwork on a monthly basis and through attendance by the IRS Service Manager at a quarterly Performance Meeting. Audit has identified variable filing of key reports by Social Workers in CareFirst s Wisdom application. 37 Independent Service Annual Report o Consider joint piece of work with Permanence & Throughcare and identify an IRO, with experience of working with Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers, to work undertake this. o Introduce an IRO Mid-Point Check. IROs to proactively monitor at mid-point between reviews against the progress of decisions from the last meeting. To speak to children aged 11+ (through visiting or phone call) and to speak to carers for younger children to check children s wishes, feelings and allow children to raise issues as appropriate with their IRO outside of a review. o As detailed, ensuring IRS Service Manager attendance at the appropriate Fieldwork Service Manager meetings. o Monthly sample auditing. o Individual challenge in 1:1 s with IROs. o Thematic challenge within monthly IRS Performance meetings. o Provision of reports to Fieldwork Services and attendance of the IRS Service Manager at quarterly Performance Meetings. Fieldwork Services. Independent Service. Independent Service. Fieldwork Services. Independent Service. Independent Service. o To be included within IRS Monitoring Forms. Independent

38 Feedback through IRO monitoring the presence or otherwise of appropriate reports in Wisdom. Arising from the report, seek to address consistency in IRO practice to ensure quality and consistency of service to children. Arising from the report to collectively challenge as identified. o Through monthly IRS Performance meetings and individual 1:1 meetings between the IRS Service Manager and IROs. o Through individual 1:1 meetings, IRS Performance meetings, Safeguarding and IRS Service Manager meetings and Fieldwork Performance Service Manager meetings. o IRS Service Manager to attend Fieldwork Service Manager meetings on a quarterly basis. The quality and timeliness of Pathway Plans is variable. To work with Permanence & Throughcare to improve the quality of Pathway Planning and Pathway Plans. o IROs have prepared a guide to their expectations of the content of a good quality Pathway Plan. o Permanence and Throughcare are exploring good quality examples of Pathway Plans. o Agreement in place that a nominated IRO and Team Manager will then move forward to present training once an agreement is in place as to any new format for a Pathway Plan. Children accommodated less than 20 working days. The Independent Service identified during the year that there were a number of children accommodated for a short time such that they were never reviewed. There were 47 children that had had a Looked After period for less than 28 days in the first 11 months of 2014 (including some sibling groups). Whilst some of these were remanded, concern about the rationale for both accommodating and ceasing to The key messages for practice arising from this audit were: o Timeliness of the care period is important professional challenge should be used if a case is drifting of if there is professional disagreement (SSCB Resolution of Practitioner Disagreements can be used, when needed). 38 Independent Service Annual Report Service. Independent Service. Independent Service Fieldwork Service Independent Service Independent Service. Fieldwork Service Fieldwork Service Independent Service.

39 accommodate others led to a referral to the Safeguarding Children Board for a thematic audit. o Making informed in relation to where to place a child to identify if there is someone known to the child that can care for them. Children subject to Section 20 are vulnerable - it is important for the professionals to: o Plan, from the beginning, for a sudden change in circumstances periods of care can be very short and can change suddenly. o Professionals should communicate, with the multiagency team, about any changes. o The child s plan should be reviewed, in the light of any change to circumstances (as soon as possible after change has occurred). Other positive practice, that can help a case progress positively o Knowing the child, responding to them and building up trust with them. o Keeping a focus on the child: listening to the child, but weighing this up with all the other information available. 39 Independent Service Annual Report

40 o Positive multiagency communication - with one professional taking the lead o Professional Challenge, where needed o Consider is there one small thing that you could do in order to make a difference to the child? There has been delay throughout the period in question in the ratification and dissemination of policies relating to Children in Care Financial Procedures, Staying Put and Special Guardianship allowances / support. Ensure annual reviews are undertaken of all Foster Carers o Continue to press for the timely implementation and dissemination of policies with particular referenced to Staying Put, Special Guardianship and Children in Care Financial Procedures. o Ensure that these policies are referred to and embedded within the Tri-X policies that are accessible to Social Workers. o Increase IRO capacity from 2 to 3 days. o Agree new model and process based on the experiences of the last 2 years as detailed in the report provided by the outgoing IRO for the Director of Children and Families. 40 Independent Service Annual Report Independent Service. Independent Service Fostering Service.

41 Legend 1. The Role of the Independent Officers in England. (NCB, March 2014). 2. Beyond the Adoption Order; Challenges, Interventions & Adoption Disruption. (Department for Education, April 2014) 3. The Sheffield Virtual School for Looked After Children. Annual Report Promoting the Education of Looked After Children Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities. (Department for Education, July 2014). 5. Permanence, long-term foster placements and ceasing to look after a child (Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities, Department for Education, March 2015). Abbreviations CAFCASS Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. DRP Dispute Resolution Process IRO Independent Officer IRS Independent Service UASC Unaccompanied Asylum Seeker Child 41 Independent Service Annual Report

42 Appendix 1 42 Independent Service Annual Report

43 43 Independent Service Annual Report Paul Massey Service Manager October 2015

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