Brown aims to test if mentoring works

A two-year pilot scheme to test the effectiveness of mentoring for looked-after children is to be launched next year, it was announced in this week’s pre-budget report.

The programme, to be delivered by the voluntary sector, will involve 600 looked-after children aged between 10 and 15.

It will run against the backdrop of a wide-ranging consultation early in the new year on proposals aimed at transforming outcomes for looked-after children.

First trailed in October’s education white paper, the proposals will focus on improving fostering and residential care and are believed to be a precursor to a green paper.

The government will also investigate and evaluate new ways of preventing children coming into care before disseminating best practice and encouraging the development of preventive services.

And pilots will be launched in six to 10 local authorities to test whether the new “lead professionals” for children and families should be given a budget to commission services directly from providers.

Barnardo’s principal policy officer Pam Hibbert said the “jury was still out” on peer mentoring and said the pilot should be a genuine test of whether it worked, not just a preparation for a national roll-out.

Baaf Adoption and Fostering chief executive Felicity Collier said any proposals must include fees and extra support for foster carers and improve placement stability for children.

Association of Directors of Social Services president Julie Jones welcomed the focus on children, but said many councils were already working in the ways outlined in the report and that the pilots were on a very small scale.

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