Regulations and Guidance on Services for Young People Ceasing to be Looked After by Local Authorities
CHAPTER 1: PRINCIPLES
Throughcare and aftercare
1.1 Local authorities have a duty to prepare young people for
ceasing to be looked after ("throughcare") and to provide advice,
guidance and assistance for young people who have ceased to be
looked after over school age ("aftercare"). This guidance and the
Regulations at Annex A are intended to help local authorities
to provide these services for young people who are or were previously looked after. It supersedes chapter seven on throughcare and aftercare of Volume 2 - Children Looked After by Local Authorities - of the guidance on the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.
1.2 There are around 11,000 children and young people looked after by local authorities in Scotland, of whom about 1,500 are over 15 years old. About 1,200 young people aged 16 or over cease to be looked after each year. These young people need planning and support to make a successful transition from being looked after to independent adult living.
Age when leaving care
1.3 An important factor in making this transition successfully is age. Looked after young people tend to be younger than their peers when they move to independent living, with an average age of 16/17 years old compared to an average of 22 years old for other young people. For some young people this can be a positive step, but it is normally better for young people to remain looked after longer. The general principle is that young people should continue to be looked after until 18, if it is in their best interests and this guidance should be read with that principle in mind.
1.4 Local authorities have a role as corporate parents to these young people, particularly those who cannot return to their families. This means that the local authority should look after these children as any other parents would look after their own children. The provision of care and support for young people by their parents does not generally cease at a particular age and may continue long after a young person has reached adulthood. It adapts to meet the changing needs of the young person as they grow up, and will, at different times, include accommodation and financial support as well as advice and assistance.
1.5 The role of corporate parent is not restricted to the social work department of the local authority but applies to all departments and agencies, who should recognise their own responsibility to promote the welfare of looked after young people and ensure that their needs are adequately addressed by each department. The success of throughcare and aftercare services will depend on a shared sense of corporate parenthood across an authority. The authority must also draw on the knowledge and experience of others in providing for these young people, for example foster carers will have a knowledge of the young people they have looked after and should be involved in planning throughcare and aftercare.
Employment, education and training
1.6 Social work departments and education departments should work together to ensure that young people who are looked after achieve their maximum potential within the education system. Young people moving to adulthood are often hampered by lack of formal academic qualifications. Good links between social workers and designated teachers will allow young people's progress to be monitored and encouraged.
1.7 Continuing education, training and employment can help young people establish themselves as successful and independent adults. Local authorities should work closely with Careers Scotland who can assist young people in making choices for education and training. A draft partnership agreement between local authorities and Careers Scotland is at Annex B.
1.8 One tool to encourage joined-up working is children's services plans, which should cover the range of services provided by authorities to children and families. Plans should be joint between local authorities, voluntary sector services and other partners, particularly NHS Boards and Trusts. At a local level, children's services plans should consider the full range of resources available and state clear plans for future resource use. Resources in the plans will also cover staffing, including a multi-disciplinary approach to work force planning, and appropriate references to joint provision, funding and training. This should include inter-agency co-operation on the provision of services for throughcare and aftercare. Local authorities will want to check any other plans they have to consider whether they are relevant to looked after children's issues, although the children's services plans should be the main vehicle for planning.
1.9 Section 21 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 makes provision, where it appears to the local authority, that an appropriate person could be doing certain things to help in the exercise of any of their functions, for the local authority to specify their nature and request the help of that person. Appropriate persons are defined as other local authorities, health boards, NHS Trusts and any person authorised by Scottish Ministers; and they are required to comply with such a request provided that it is compatible with their own statutory or other duties and obligations and does not unduly prejudice the discharge of any of their functions.
1.10 Responsibility for throughcare and aftercare services, and their co-ordination, needs to be at a senior level and one way of achieving effective management direction is to designate a senior officer in social work to be responsible for the development and maintenance of throughcare and aftercare services. Senior housing and education officers might also be designated with responsibility for housing and education contributions to the development of throughcare. Within housing, it would be helpful if the same officer had responsibility for housing and community care, and services for homeless people.
Aims and outcomes
1.11 It is of vital importance that young people are properly prepared for this crucial part of growing up and are given access to full support afterwards. The young people taking this step will do so from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances, at various ages and with various levels of support available to them from family and friends. They will include some of the most vulnerable looked after young people, who may have had little or no contact with their birth family and a large number of placements when looked after. It is crucial that the local authority successfully fulfils its role as corporate parent to these young people to enable them to make a successful transition to independent adult living.
1.12 The overall aim of this guidance and the regulations is to reinforce the parenting responsibility of local authorities for young people who may have no other support at this difficult time of transition; to re-emphasise the local authorities' power and duty to continue to look after them until, normally, they are 18; to ensure that they are prepared and ready for the time when they are no longer looked after; to improve the assessment, preparation and planning for that time; to provide better personal support, to strengthen the on-going contact between the local authority and young people beyond the age of 18 until at least 21.
1.13 Central to the legislative changes accompanying this guidance is the duty to carry out an assessment of the needs of these young people. Materials have been prepared to help local authorities carry out this duty effectively and these have also been published under the title Pathways. This guidance should be read alongside those materials.