Record numbers of looked-after children in Kirklees are participating in their reviews through Voice’s Blueprint in Practice project. Lauren Revans reports
Just four years ago, only two-thirds of looked-after children in Kirklees participated in their reviews. After 18 months, with the help of the charity Voice and its Blueprint in Practice project (see panel), the council’s participation figure was more than 90%.
Even more impressive is the fact that Kirklees Council has maintained this high level of participation, despite having 150 more children in its care now than in 2006.
Suzanne Triggs, a senior organisational and workforce development officer at the council who managed the project from the outset, believes success has partly been due to finding a “quick win” to spark interest among children and young people.
Kirklees held an event asking the council’s looked-after children to design new age-specific review forms. “As a result, the kids were interested and wanted to look at the whole review process,” Triggs says.
A group of 16 looked-after children aged between six and 18 remained involved in the project for nearly two years, coming up with ideas to improve the review process.
One outcome of this was the introduction of a “review menu of choice”, which all young people in care are now talked through to ensure they understand the different ways they can participate in their reviews, and that they have choices about where, when and how their reviews are held. The group also led the launch of the revamped review process and new review packs for looked-after children, running workshops for other young people and their foster carers on making videos or scrapbooks.
Procedures and documentation had to change to ensure social workers and other professionals involved could adapt to the new review process. These included introducing automated reminders four weeks before a child’s review was due and redesigning the statutory visit form to include prompts about the ongoing review process.
Triggs adds they also had to convince social workers that the change would not involve more work.
“They thought we wanted them to double their workload,” she says. “But what we were saying is that the review preparation needs to be done, but not necessarily by them – it might be a foster carer or residential care worker who helps the young person.
“This is also giving social workers permission to do more of the one-to-one work they all want to do.”
The benefits have been dramatic. As well as nine out of 10 looked-after children now participating in at least two reviews a year, adults and professionals invited to reviews no longer save things up over a six-month period to raise at review meetings. Ongoing preparation and participation in the review process is seen as the norm by all involved.
● Call 0207 833 5792 for more on Voice’s “It’s my review” one-day training courses
● Go to the new KicK (kids in care Kirklees) website to see electronic versions of all the materials produced by the Kirklees Blueprint in Practice project
Case study: ‘Review process is social work bread and butter’
Darron Torbett, 12, has nothing but praise for Kirklees’s review process. “They listen to me,” he says. “I feel as though my point gets across when I’m in the review. They give me a chance to say what I think about stuff.”
To help deliver his message at his last review, Aarron made a DVD. “I answered questions on it about my health, and what I like to do, and if I feel I’m being well looked after,” he says. “I did talk on the day as well, but it was easier to get my message across on the video.”
Aarron’s social worker, Andy Parkinson, is one of several frontline social workers who help deliver the bespoke training course designed by Voice to new starters at Kirklees Council.
“The review process now starts with the child and ends with the child,” Parkinson says. “It’s about the child talking about him or herself, and feeling good about their life and their care plan. I don’t want to go to a review and have recommendations coming out of it. I want it all to be sorted beforehand.
“We all know that a lot of social work today is done from behind a computer screen or over a phone. But this kind of work brings you back to why you became a social worker: to make a change and to listen. I don’t see why every authority shouldn’t be doing it. This is social work bread and butter.”
Blueprint in practice
Blueprint in Practice is run by Voice in seven local authorities and consists of projects to identify and overcome barriers that prevent services from being child-centred.
These include improving the daily quality of life within Derbyshire Council’s children’s homes; developing professional practice working with looked-after children in Greenwich; and improving the stability of placements for children looked after by Southampton Council.
This article is published in the 20 May issue of Community Care magazine under the heading Something to say for themsleves