Government to consider named worker for disabled children in inpatient care

Forthcoming guidance will also clarify councils’ corporate parenting role for disabled children placed outside of their area

Photo: JorgeAlejandro/Fotolia

The government will explore whether a scheme similar to the named social worker pilot in adults’ services could work for children in inpatient settings.

Responding to the Council for Disabled Children report ‘These are our children’, care minister Jackie Doyle-Price said the Department of Health would launch a feasibility study on a named key worker role to support children and young people with significant needs at risk of admission, or who had been admitted to inpatient settings, and their family.

The study will report back by the end of 2018, and will “utilise the evidence from the Named Social Worker pilots” in adults’ services to inform it.

This aims to give people with learning disabilities, mental health and “composite” conditions and their families a dedicated social worker to help challenge decisions about their care.

The CDC report’s recommendation said young people in – or at risk of going into – an inpatient setting due to their mental health, autism and or/a learning disability should benefit from a key or named worker, either from health or local authority services, but in touch with both.

‘Significant resource implication’

In her response, Doyle-Price said: “Whilst this recommendation has a significant resource implication, there is clearly scope for commissioners to ensure that all families have access to a dedicated and named point of contact.”

She added that the report made for “hard reading in places” and that failing to deliver the right care and support prevented cost-effective practice.

“It is clear that changes cannot happen without a broad commitment to make progress working in collaboration across a number of organisations. Subject to detailed consideration of the practicalities and costs, I agree with all your recommendations.”

Corporate parents

The report also recommended that local authorities act as corporate parents to children and young people from their area placed in inpatient settings outside of the local authority area.

Doyle-Price said: “The Department for Education will publish guidance on statutory visits to children with special educational needs and disabilities or health conditions in long-term residential settings.

“This will clarify the local authority role, including for children placed out of area, related to the safeguarding and welfare of children and young people placed in residential schools, hospitals, and other residential establishments for consecutive periods of three months or more.”

Christine Lenehan, director of the Council for Disabled Children and author of the ‘These Are Our Children’ review, said at the time of the report’s publication in January: “There’s a well-worn path for this group of disabled children, away from their home communities into long term placements that often act a last resort. Hidden and separated from the rest of society, these children become ‘special cases’, for whom the aspirations we have for other children and young people don’t apply.

“We urgently need a shift in thinking, so that ‘these’ children are recognised as ‘our’ children, as members of our communities with exactly the same rights to health and education, and family and community life.”

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