‘More kinship care and social pedagogy to address failings in teen care’

Directors set out their vision for improving the care system’s poor track record with teens

Picture credit: Rex Features
Picture credit: Rex Features

Children’s services directors want a social pedagogy-style approach to commissioning services for adolescents, and more financial and training support for kinship care placements.

The recommendations are made in the second of three flagship reports from the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), which outline members’ aspirations for the care system based on research evidence.

The report points out the care system has a poor track record of meeting the needs of teenagers – particularly those who enter care after the age of 11 – with a predominance of ‘crisis admissions’ following family breakdowns.

Holistic approach to children and families

“All services, including youth justice, speech and language therapy, child and adult mental health and targeted local services for young people should be considered as part of a local review,” the report stated.

“Such an approach requires a holistic approach to children, young people and their families based on a single conceptual framework, such as social pedagogy. The workforce implications, the skills mix required to deliver as much integrated services as possible while retaining as much specialism as necessary require careful analysis.”

While it acknowledges English social pedagogy pilots had inconclusive outcomes, it noted these were restricted to residential care and had inconsistencies in implementation. The model was also met with cynicism and initial resistance from professionals.

Where councils persevered with the approach, initial resistance was superseded by a “light bulb moment when it became clear that this approach can bring improved outcomes for young people and a better, more satisfying, working experience for staff”.

More kinship care for teenagers

The report also recommended more support for kin care in relation to teens. Andrew Webb, ADCS president, said the evidence suggests more kinship care would improve outcomes for children by allowing them to stay in their own communities. “We must encourage and support the growth of kinship care by providing improved support and training over time,” he said.

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A model of shared care, such as that which already exists for children with disabilities, should be developed for teens, he added.

Multi-systemic therapy and multi-treatment foster care

A third major recommendation also advised directors to consider reducing their spend on residential care in favour of multi-systemic therapy, multi-treatment foster care and functional family therapy.

“Research suggests a significant amount of residential care would be decommissioned if it were judged more carefully on outcomes. The evidence in respect of outcomes from specialist foster care suggests there should be significant extra investment in these forms of intervention. Local authorities should switch to a model of commissioning for outcomes as opposed to commissioning places,” the report recommended.

The ADCS has promised to develop such a model of commissioning for its members and has also committed to quantifying the social and financial consequences and costs of care, and considering alternative investment models. It will also work with Ofsted on a more outcomes-focused inspection framework for looked-after children.

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