Why is this needed?
Co-ordinating services to special guardians (SGs) often requires good levels of communication and cooperation between different local authority services such as safeguarding, Special Guardianship Order (SGO) support, housing and welfare rights.
“26. Special guardianship support services should not be seen in isolation from mainstream services. It is vital to ensure that children and families involved in special guardianship arrangements are assisted in accessing mainstream services and are aware of their entitlement to social security benefits and tax credits as appropriate.”
“Only 37% of the young people in the study achieved the national target of five GCSE passes at Grade C and above, including English and Maths. As many as three-fifths had some difficulties with learning, over half had truanted, almost a third had been excluded at some point, a quarter had missed a lot of school and over a third had been bullied. Some young people were greatly helped by relationships with individual teachers and counselling services in schools were also important.” (Grandparents plus 2017 p16)
Practical and emotional support
“Other forms of support for kinship carers from local authorities is unsurprisingly also patchy and inconsistent, varying from place to place, carer to carer. While access to support is often determined by legal status (depending on whether a child has is looked-after or has a Special Guardianship Order), there appears to be no relationship between the needs of children, the legal order and therefore the access to support.” (Grandparents Plus 2017b p6)
“To summarise, a considerable number of kinship carers reported that they feel their life is a battle trying to care for, and get the right help, for their kinship child/ren – who may have special needs, disabilities or are suffering the impact of past trauma. The kinship carers have often had to make significant financial and personal sacrifices to take on the child/ren, and whilst the child/ren is doing well in their care, this can be at the expense of the kinship carers’ own health, finances and even relationships. However, they feel this is rarely recognised by children services, public agencies or government.” (FRG 2019 p9)
Examples of approaches currently being taken
Brighton and Hove
- Managers from the Family and Friends service contribute to wider service meetings and working groups considering policies and procedures across Families, Children and Learning to ensure the needs of SG’s are considered
- A Team Manager is currently part of a working group looking at how children subject to an SGO, are responded to when referrals are received via the Front Door for Families (a single point of contact for services for children and families)
- A Team Manager is also part of a Working Party looking at how universal Parenting Support Services across the city can better meet the needs of SGs
- The Virtual School has a named Education Support Worker for children previously in care who works closely with the Family and Friends Team and has been instrumental in developing a Previously LAC Personal Education Plan and rolling this out across schools, nursery settings and colleges across the city. She networks with educational staff and provides information regarding the support offered by the Family and Friends Team
- The Virtual School commissions a number of Educational Clinics from a local Therapeutic provider, to provide an informal session to explore helpful tips and strategies to support the education of children/young people previously in care, including SGs
- The service routinely uses Social Services nominations to Band A Housing to secure larger properties for SGs. A Social Work Resource Officer based at Front Door For Families specialises in housing issues and provides advice and guidance to the Team and SG’s where relevant.
- SGO young people can be referred to other services such as the Restorative Early Help Team, Multi-Systemic Therapy Service or Support care scheme (an ‘edge of care’ service providing short break care).
- Liaison with housing takes place to try upgrade their status to band A
- The Virtual School can now provide advice on education and access issues to SGO young people
- Referrals are made to Special Educational Needs Statutory Assessment & Provision, particularly when an Education, Health and Care Plan is required.
North London Adoption and Fostering Consortium
A coordinated approach with Education and Virtual schools is planned to include:
- Staff training
- An information booklet to cover:
- The role of the Virtual School
- Access to Post LAC Pupil Premium Plus
- Issues and barriers for Previously Looked After Children
- Effective strategies, support and interventions
- Availability of Support services
- Guidance on evaluating practice
A service commissioned from PAC-UK services includes an education support line.
- Strong links are in place with the local Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub teams and joint working with childcare teams. Referrals can be made by allocated workers for Children in Need or Child Protection assessments for families in crisis.
- An education worker and social workers link with educational establishments/depts/special schools and Virtual Schools.
- An allocated worker will contribute to and/or attend Education Health and Care Plan reviews or Team Around the Family meetings.
- Virtual schools attend team meetings.
- Virtual schools also attend training sessions in the community with our SG carers to provide information regarding Pupil Premium and help with transition to secondary school.
- The Kinship Team has attended the Head Teachers meeting to inform them about our service.
- All therapeutic interventions are the subject of a review process which is often multi-disciplinary and attended by the therapists/parent(s) and Social Worker. This allows us to review the therapy and also consider together what other services a family may benefit from
- Signposting to other services is agreed and taken forward by the responsible statutory service including signposting to our Education advice line
- Education staff provide a workshop around accessing education support, including the Virtual School
Kinship Navigators (USA)
Kinship navigator programs offer information, referral, and follow-up services to grandparents and other relatives raising children to link them to the benefits and services that they or the children need. Kinship navigator programs also help agencies and providers tune into the needs of families headed by relatives and provide education to the community about the kinship caregivers and the systems they must navigate.
Co-ordinating the full range of support services to families and children is challenging. Developing joint protocols across local authority services or developing a ‘Lead Professional’ approach, as seems to be the case with the Kinship Navigators programme, would be two ways of helping to ensure that this group of families and children receive the appropriate services in a coordinated way.
SGs consulted in the preparation for this paper highlighted:
- The vital importance of schools and education settings in meeting the needs of young people.
- Behaviour policies and approaches which take account of childhood trauma and attachment issues are required.
- That liaison between Children’s Services and housing providers is a crucial issue but lacks clarity and coordination, particularly if co-ordination between local authorities is required.