Cared for children and care leavers
Children and young people become cared for (sometimes known as looked after) when their birth parents are unable to provide ongoing care in either a temporary or permanent capacity and so the local authority takes care of them.
Children can either be cared for as a result of a voluntary agreement by their parents or as the result of a care order.
Children may be placed with kinship carers (family), network carers (extended family / friends), in residential care (a children’s home) or with foster carers depending on individual circumstances. Once a local authority has taken the profound and difficult decision to remove a child, short-term or long-term, from his or her family, it is the duty of the whole local authority to ‘safeguard and promote his welfare’ (1989 Children Act).
The ‘whole authority’ includes the education department as well as social services, and school also have a key role to play. In broad terms the local authority should do at least what a good parent would do. This responsibility continues at least until the age of 21 and up to the age of 24 if the young person is still being supported in higher education or training.
The terms unaccompanied minors, unaccompanied children, child migrants, child immigrants, unaccompanied migrant children, and juvenile immigrants are often used interchangeably and generally refer to immigrants who are under the age of 18 years and are not under the care of a parent or legal guardian. This includes children fleeing violence or unrest, seeking work, or who are victims of trafficking.
Why the local authority cares for children
Children may come into the care of the local authority for all sorts of reasons, eg:
- a parent may be unable to continue caring for them
- they may be at risk of harm and need to move to a safer place
- a parent may be ill or may need to go into hospital and there is no other family members or friends available to look after them.
Who is involved
Wherever possible, the local authority will work in partnership with parents and many children and young people in care retain strong links with their families and many eventually return home. An Independent Reviewing Officer is provided for every cared for child and young person aged 0-18 years. All Independent Reviewing Officers are separate and independent of social workers and so can question if children and young people are receiving the best care and support services possible.
Cheshire East is adopting Signs of Safety as our way of working with children, young people, parents and carers. This means that we will look at what’s working well and how we can best work together, as well as what needs to change. For more information please see our Signs of Safety webpage.
What is a care leaver
A care leaver is a young person between the ages of 16-18 who is leaving the care system having spent at least three months (continuously or in aggregate since the age of 14) being cared for by the local authority. Local authorities must plan for cared for children so that they have the support they need as they make their transition to the responsibilities of adulthood. The local authority's responsibility to Care Leavers extends until they reach the age of 21 or 24, where the Local Authority is involved in supporting them in higher education or training.
Advice and support for cared for children and care leavers
The Children’s Society provide a Rights and Advocacy Service for children and young people. This service empowers children and young people to make their views heard and make sure they are involved in decisions that affect them. This includes Advocacy Services and Independent Visiting.
The advocacy service covers several important areas:
- listening carefully to children who need to get their views and feelings across
- giving children a voice in decisions that affect their lives
- ensuring young people’s rights are respected and that they are treated fairly
- helping them solve problems in ways that feel comfortable to them
- advocacy for children with complex communication needs, severe learning difficulties and children without speech
- non-instructed advocacy for children with severe communication impairments (where the advocate gains information from those who know the child well and gauges what the child’s views are by observing their behaviour).
Independent visitor service
Children and young people can choose to have an independent visitor to befriend them. This is a volunteer who will get to know the child or young person by taking them out and doing activities together. The independent visitor is someone who is committed to developing a relationship with the child or young person based on trust and friendship.
The child or young person and the independent visitor will usually meet up for at least two hours a fortnight. Activities that children and young people take part in with their independent visitors include:
- sharing hobbies
- things that the child or young person might like to do.
Cared for Sufficiency Statement
The Cheshire East Children and Young People’s Plan sets out our vision for Cheshire East to be a place where children and young people thrive, are safe from harm, feel physically and emotionally healthy, have access to outstanding education and feel prepared for and excited about adulthood.
The Sufficiency Statement for 2021-2023 emphasises our arrangements for ensuring our Cared for Children are supported to have the same chances as their peers who are brought up in their own families. It also ensures arrangements for providing suitable accommodation for our Cared
For Children and anticipating/responding to changes in demand/supply of places for those children in care who are the responsibility of the local authority as their corporate parents.
This incorporates the standards of excellence set out in the 1989 Children’s Act for Sufficiency Duty and is in line with Section 22G of the Children Act 1989.
Within the Statement, we have used a range of information sources; it’s central approach is the wishes and feelings of our young people. Cheshire East has signed up to the Care Leavers Pledge and is committed , with partners to the priorities that are set out in the Children and Young People’s Plan.
This alongside the Corporate Parenting Strategy set out the principles by which agencies and services within Cheshire East will ensure that the Cared for Children are supported and that progress can be measured to ensure that we are all working as hard as possible to ensure that our cared for children feel supported, encouraged and aspirational.