In the news round-up this week: Philanthropists invited to fund children in care programmes; University bursaries ease living costs; Working out what makes a children’s service good; ADCS president “honours” foster carers; GCSE success for Welsh children in care
Funding the right programmes to support children in care
Philanthropic company NPC has published a guide to help potential funders wanting to invest in programmes to support children in care and care leavers to understand what impact their sponsorship might have, particularly in the light of “constrained” and variable local authority funding. The guide names several existing charity or philanthropically funded programmes and describes how they support outcomes in five broad areas: relationships, well-being, independent living, the criminal justice system and employment and education. Although completed before the Children and Social Work Act received Royal Assent the document nevertheless outlines clearly the current challenges around the care system as well as the recent political context.
“Children in, at the edge of, or leaving care are a group that deserve significant attention… But their needs are not being best met by local authorities constrained by a difficult funding environment, and significant variations in the quality of service provision, NPC says. “Funders have a real opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children in or leaving care but a good understanding of the complex care system and knowledge of the priority needs is key,” it concludes. Meanwhile, the Prince’s Trust, one of the providers mentioned in the NPC guide has just released its own evaluation of its From Care to Independence project that supports care leavers to develop key skills and access employment, education or training.
NPC’s publication coincides with a campaign from Children England warning that under current plans, central government will no longer fund local authority child protection work from 2020. Instead, local authorities will be expected to fund services purely through income derived from business rates and council tax. The plans have been criticised for their likely impact on poorer areas that have fewer opportunities to raise money from business rates, potentially forcing council tax hikes to maintain services impacting on poorer families.
Bursaries to ease university living costs for care leavers
Staying on the funding theme CYP Now reports on a scheme run by the Unite Foundation offering 70 bursaries to cover living costs for care leavers attending any of the 28 universities participating in the scheme. You can find full details on the Unite Foundation website – although applications for this year’s bursaries must be submitted by 31 May.
What makes a children’s service good? (part 2)
Details of a new research project aimed at better understanding what a “good” local authority is in terms of its children’s services are outlined on the NSPCC website. The planned project follows on from an earlier study (TWiF 12 January) which found local authorities had widely varying ways of evaluating outcomes for children in care. It also found some odd correlations such as a local authority with a higher number of children recorded as missing was more likely to be judged “good” under the Ofsted framework than one that did not. “As well as gathering input from local authorities and experts, the next stage of research will also directly involve service users to inform a new set of outcome indicators,” the NSPCC article says.
ADCS president thanks foster carers for their dedication
Alison Michalska, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), used a blog post on the ADCS website to express her appreciation for the work done by foster carers. Michalska faced a barrage of criticism from foster carers last month after she used part of her inaugural speech as ADCS president to dismiss unionisation and “over-professionalisation” of fostering (TWiF 13 April). “We go out of our way to show our foster carers how valued they are to us,” she wrote on behalf of her own authority, Nottingham City Council. “We recently honoured the work of more than 150 of our foster carers at a celebration at Nottingham’s Council House. It was a wonderful evening; our opportunity to celebrate them and to say a huge ‘thank you’ for their dedication,” she said.
Welsh children in care exam results boost
And finally the Welsh government announced that 23% of its looked after children achieved the equivalent of five GCSEs at grade A*–C in English or Welsh first language and mathematics last year. This is an increase from 17% in 2015. “We have seen an excellent improvement in the GCSE results of those in care and we have committed more funding to build on this, but I want to go further,” said education secretary Kirsty Williams. “Research shows that all too often that simply by being ‘in care’ the expectations placed on these young people reduce.”
Photo by Diego Hernandez