Section 59: Planning by Corporate Parents
109. Under section 59 a corporate parent must prepare, keep under review, and publish a Corporate Parenting Plan. This plan must set out how the corporate parent proposes to fulfil its corporate parenting responsibilities (as set out in section 58 of the Act).
110. The format of a corporate parenting plan is not prescribed in the Act or this guidance. However the content of the plan must include information on how the corporate parent (or group of corporate parents if a joint plan) will:
- Be alert to matters which, or which might, adversely affect the wellbeing of children and young people to whom corporate parenting applies.
- Assess the needs of those children and young people for the services and support they provide.
- Promote the interests of those children and young people.
- Provide those children and young people with opportunities to participate in activities designed to promote their wellbeing.
- Take such action as it considers appropriate to help those children and young people to (i) access the opportunities it provides, and (ii) make use of services, and access support, which it provides.
- Take such action as it considers appropriate for the purposes of improving the way in which it exercises its functions in relation to the children and young people to whom corporate parenting applies.
111. These corporate parenting duties apply equally to all looked after children and care leavers. Due to the wide range of ages and placement types experienced by the eligible population, corporate parents will need to consider how the wellbeing needs of the whole population can be met. In preparing a corporate parenting plan it is recommended that details are given, where appropriate, about how the corporate parent (or group of corporate parents if a joint plan) will fulfil their responsibilities in respect to:
- the different ages (and stages of development) of looked after children;
- the different genders;
- the different placement types in which looked after children and care leavers live;
- looked after children and care leavers with disabilities;
- the different cultural and religious backgrounds of looked after children and care leavers;
- the different geographical contexts in which they live ( e.g. urban/rural)
112. Where appropriate, corporate parents should consider how to meet the needs of younger children (0 - 11) and those who live at home or with kinship carers. Traditionally these groups have not enjoyed the same benefits from corporate parenting as others. To ensure the corporate parenting duties are fulfilled equally for all children and young people, it is recommended that corporate parents consider how they will engage and interact with children's carers. These adults will play a critical role in keeping corporate parents alert to matters affecting the wellbeing of the eligible population, and enabling children and young people to participate in opportunities, and access services and support.
113. It is also recommended that corporate parenting plans include details of any planned collaboration between corporate parents. Corporate parents are under a duty to collaborate with each other, in so far as it is reasonably practical, when exercising their corporate parenting duties; this includes, if appropriate, the development of a joint-corporate parenting plan. (For further details on the duty to work collaboratively, please see the relevant chapter below.)
114. A corporate parent (or group of corporate parents) must keep their plan under review. The purpose of this review should be to (a) establish if the plan is being delivered, and (b) identify ways in which the corporate parent(s) may improve the way it exercises its corporate parenting functions. A corporate parent must put in place systems to regularly collect and analyse information relating to its performance. It is recommended that all corporate parents set clear objectives for the duration of the plan, on which their performance will be measured. In respect of the opportunities, services and supports which may be provided, corporate parents should pay close attention to the quality of what they are providing, not just the volume and range. This will involve seeking and analysing feedback from children and young people who participated in activities or accessed services.
115. The Act does not prescribe a timescale for reviewing the corporate parenting plan. The duty is to 'keep its plan under review', so all corporate parents should review their plan regularly ( e.g. bi-annually, annually), assessing their performance when relevant information is available. However, at a minimum, prior to publishing a corporate parenting report (section 61) or a revising a corporate parenting plan, corporate parents should undertake a review (of their performance). The findings of this review should be published in the corporate parenting report, and used to update the corporate parenting plan. It is recommended that the process of reviewing, reporting on, and updating the plan, takes place at least once every three years. (For further details on reports by corporate parents, please see the relevant chapter below.)
116. Section 59(2) requires a corporate parent, where appropriate, to consult with other corporate parents before preparing or revising their corporate parenting plan. (For further details on collaborative working among corporate parents, please see the relevant chapter below.) Corporate parents must also consult with such other persons as they consider appropriate. In every case the term 'appropriate person' would include the children and young people to whom Part 9 applies. While it may not be possible or desirable for every corporate parent to consult with the eligible population directly, every corporate parenting plan should take account of their views and aspirations. Those corporate parents who do not engage with looked after children and care leavers directly should collaborate closely with corporate parents who do, or consult other organisations who can provide relevant information and insight.
117. Section 59(3) requires a corporate parent to publish their plan, and any revised plan, in such manner as it considers appropriate. The legislation also emphasises that plans may be published together with, or as part of, any other plan or document. This guidance has already recommended that the plan should be reviewed and updated at least every three years. This updated plan must then be published in a document which is easily accessible to both the eligible population and general public. Accessibility relates to both the availability of the document ( i.e. published online), and its format and language.
118. Plans may be published alone, or as part of another document. Corporate parents choosing to publish their plan as part of another document should carefully consider the relevance and accessibility of the other document. In view of the duty on all corporate parents to publish a report on how they exercised their corporate parenting functions, it is recommended that plans and reports are published together, in the same document, to make it as easy as possible for children and young people to access them. For some corporate parents it may be appropriate to include their plans in the wider 'Children's Services Plan', prepared under Part 3 of the Act. However, corporate parents choosing to do so must ensure that this document meets the necessary requirements in terms of accessibility for looked after children and care leavers. Where a group of corporate parents choose to publish a joint plan, regardless of the format they must ensure the individual contributions of each corporate parent are clearly detailed.