The Voluntary Sector’s Role

Improving services for Stoke’s children in care

Once the new management team was in place, Shaftesbury Young People was able to begin phase one of its work with Stoke Council: an audit of about 240 of its 460 children in care, to look at decisions made and outcomes achieved.

“We wanted to get a real understanding about what and how decisions were being made, how they were impacting on children and their families and so on so we had a sense of what the practice at Stoke was like,” explains development director Chris Carey.

Shaftesbury also interviewed social workers and team managers responsible for the cases being audited. “We approached it in the spirit of being supportive, but also challenging,” Carey says. “We were asking them to give reasons and rationale for making decisions.”

The second phase at the council involves four areas of work based on issues that came out of the audit. The first of these, which has already started, is some direct work with the courts and review processes on around 15 cases out of the 240 looked at where Shaftesbury believe there may be a case for revoking care orders because children were potentially taken into care too readily.

The three other areas of work are a full analysis of care placements to ensure effective commissioning, a review of the education and health of looked-after children followed by a series of workshops to improve quality where required, and a conference due to be held in April around legal issues, processes and orders.

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