12 January 2017: News round-up
BRADFORD CITY Council became the latest local authority to confirm cuts to the payments made to many of its foster carers after its executive rubberstamped a proposal this week to phase in reductions to fostering allowances over two years. The council says, “The proposal…will achieve affordable equity for children for whom Bradford has a financial responsibility by ensuring that they are not disadvantaged as a result of the permanency option that best meets their needs.” The plan will bring fostering allowances in line with the rates currently paid to special guardians and thus avoid the risk of a judicial review of its payment policy, the council says, noting that it will also make a saving of £454,000 a year based on current payment rates.
THERE IS little consistency in what make a local authority children’s service “good” under the Ofsted framework according to a report published by the Child Outcomes Research Consortium, Loughborough University and the NSPCC. Services use different indicators to monitor outcomes for children in care and in need, many of which have not been properly analysed, the report suggests. One “counter intuitive” finding from the report authors own data analysis was that higher number of missing incidents among children in care was predictive of a better Ofsted judgement.
A CONTROVERSIAL clause to allow local authorities to be exempt from certain legal requirements under the 1989 Children’s Act remains in the children and social work bill following a lengthy debate and vote on the proposed legislation at the Commons’ public bill committee this week. While the clause has been amended to ensure local authorities will not be exempt from some of the act’s fundamental child protection requirements it will enable them to test new ways of working such as on care planning and the involvement of independent reviewing officers as well as different approaches to assessing friends and family carers. The clause has met opposition from dozens of organisations and individuals including the NSPCC and CoramBAAF but the Children’s Society whose view has been tweeted by Tact Fostering and Adoption, is more circumspect saying, “We take the view that improvements are urgently required in children’s services in many parts of the country, and we have therefore always supported the Government’s ethos to test approaches and achieve better outcomes.” Speaking at the committee, children’s minister Edward Timpson said that the impetus for the clause had come from some of the highest performing local authorities who wanted to test different ways of working. “I accept that this is not an uncontroversial piece of legislation. It has provoked strong views, but… I think we have come to the right conclusion,” he said of the clause.
MEANWHILE THE Chronicle of Social Change reports that California, which has the highest foster care population in the US is developing a “predictive analytics” computer model that uses information about past child protection cases to gauge the risk of future maltreatment of children in newly reported cases of abuse or neglect. Although controversial this approach has been gaining ground in the US over the last few years.
AND FINALLY a Barnardos project to make night workers more able to spot indicators of child sexual exploitation in London has exceeded its targets and reached more people than anticipated, according to an evaluation by the University of Bedfordshire. The Nightwatch project reached 2,093 workers in the capital including those in the hospitality, public transport and private hire sectors. It also ran in 12 other areas of the country.
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Photo by Luis Llerena