You said, we did
Following Ofsted’s visit at the beginning of 2020, we’ve been working extra hard to make sure that you get the support you need.
To do this, we been asking you exactly what you need and would like to see changed in future. You’ve given us lots of really valuable feedback through surveys such as Bright Spots, groups and calls and through the work we did together on priorities for Build Back Better. It’s been very helpful to hear about your experiences of lockdown and what matters most to you. We’re grateful for all of your feedback on how we’re doing and how we can make services better for you, and we’re making sure actions are taken on what we hear!
To make sure we’re staying on track, we’ve put in place an improvement plan, and the Department for Education are checking that we’re making progress. Happily, the most recent report says that we’ve shown good progress in many areas. We’re really pleased about this, but we know that there is more to do.
Here’s what’s been done to help deliver the support you need.
Being in touch
We’ve been making sure that we stay in touch with you through the last year, particularly because of the three national lockdowns. We know this has been a really difficult time for many of you, and we’ve heard from some of you who are living independently that being cut off from key people in your lives has, understandably, been really hard. Positively, though, for many young people this has been a time to build strong connections with carers, and we’ve taken extra steps to stay in touch – including recruiting more PAs over this time. We’ve also made sure that all the people who can support you from Social Care, Education and Health are doing what they can.
The role of the Independent Reviewing Officer is being developed as well. They will act as a champion for your rights and will ensure that all children in care experience high quality care planning resulting in better placement stability, health and educational outcomes.
Planning for the future: jobs and training
We know you’re worried about jobs and training opportunities. You’ve told us that apprenticeship opportunities with Devon County Council’s Step Forward initiative have been positive and supportive, but you would like to see more variety. As a result, Step Forward are extending the different kinds of apprenticeship that are on offer. We’re talking to businesses in Devon about how we can improve access to training, education and employment to develop your future choices. Let us know what kind of opportunities you’re interested in by completing this short survey about employment, training and further and higher education.
In the Bright Spots survey you told us that more help to support your physical health, mental health and the impact of COVID-19 would be very beneficial to you. NHS Devon have heard your feedback – through both Bright Spots and the Build Back Better work – and are ensuring young people’s needs are built into their recovery plans. This will mean more support for emotional wellbeing and mental health in the community and through school.
Some young people have said that they would like more support after 21 years of age. Following a series of focus groups, together we’ve come up with a plan of action. The first phase of this plan will be addressed by the end of May 2021, and it includes things such as reviewing the financial support policy and ensuring that PAs and social workers help to prepare you when they need to leave or close their involvement with you.
We are also working towards setting up independent living preparation workshops, a care leaver health team with a focus on mental health, and specific support for care leavers who become parents.
Safe and stable home
Although most young people leaving care say that the place where they live now is right for them, several of you said that you didn’t agree with this statement. Over the past year, we’ve increased our checks to help make sure that you aren’t in accommodation that isn’t suitable, and we’ve made sure we are able to offer better alternatives. We are working with District Councils to provide improved housing options for young people, and we have a team in place who check the quality of supported accommodation; if the quality of your home isn’t good enough, email the team to let them know. You also have the right to complain. The team are making sure they also hear about this through your Social Worker or PA and will ask providers to make changes. We know there is still more to do to get this right.
We’re really proud of the offer we have from our foster carers in Devon, and we want to see more children supported in family homes; we know this is important to you as well. We are working to ensure that we have more foster carers available – particularly in an emergency and for children with more complex needs. What’s more, as a result of a focus group with you on strengthening placement stability, measures are being taken to improve how we ensure you are able to be in your long-term home and how we address problems when they arise. Or, where it is right to, how we can support you and your birth family for you to return home. We have a new team to help with this.
Planning for the future: Pathway Plans
Many care leavers who responded to Bright Spots found said that you feel involved in your Pathway Plan all or most of the time, and that you know and trust your PA. In some cases, however, you’d experienced changes in your PA as a result of people leaving and new staff arriving and some inconsistencies in support. We know that having the same person supporting you when you have a good relationship is really important. As a result, we’ve recruited more staff this year to ensure that’s possible, and we’re looking at how we can support our great staff so that they stay working for Devon. We’re exploring how we can attract more people to join us as well.
We also know how important your pathway plan is, and we want to make sure this document is as good as it can be to support you with planning for your future. We’ve made changes to it so that it now more clearly shows your goals, how things are going and what you need.
Knowing where you’ve come from, your wider family, your culture and heritage is important to knowing who you are. In fact, it’s your right to know this. We help with this by preparing Life Stories, and we’ve been working to improve this over the last year. To help us, we asked for your views about Life Story work and what should be included for children and young people who are in care. And you gave us some great suggestions about the key items and memories that should be included, who should contribute and how Life Stories should be presented.
Your feedback has acted as a strong reminder that Life Story work has no beginning and no end and is integral to how Devon supports you throughout your life. And thanks to your contributions, Devon Children’s Social Care team have developed a helpful timeline for Life Story work. This maps out how and when items, stories and information will be collected. A toolkit containing helpful guides and templates for how the Life Story work should be carried out has also been created for all members of the team to use.