A positive outcome for a young person facing a local authority ending a placement early
This is a story of the success of committed child-centred advocacy delivered by a children’s home for the best interests of the young person.
Recently ICHA have been reading more about ways local authorities redefine ‘best interests’ using the many arguments created over the past few years, e.g. closer to home, access to schools, etc. The ‘commonsense’ when tested falls away; closer to home can also means a reduction in safety, specialism and choice (DfE commissioned research); the ICHA survey report gives the insight that access to schools is often denied for LAC.
The home shows their confidence in their expert view and with consistent assessment, they have the evidence to present another view of best interests.
We have had a child in our care since December 2013. He came to us with a history of self-harm, attachment disorder and ADHA. He had had 1 adoption breakdown and 6 foster placement breakdowns before being placed with us.
Initially, he could not have eye contact, his communication skills were very poor and he a very low opinion of females.
Educationally, this child struggled and was on the brink at one stage of being permanently excluded from school. However, due to the consistent support of both his educational mentor his keyworker and all the staff, we were able to work through this “crisis” with him and the school. So much so that he has maintained main stream education and is now in his GCSE year at school.
We appointed him a female keyworker, this was to enable him to “see females in a positive role”. His keyworker completed bereavement/loss work with him to enable him to come to terms with the breakdowns/rejection. She also completed very intensive life story work with him. Over the years, her work with him has enabled him to develop respect for females. His keyworker has had to share very sensitive information with him whilst doing the life story work, some of which was us discovering his birth mother had passed away in tragic circumstances and also that he had a half brother that no one knew he had.
We were, after many months, able to “trace”, his half-brother. We firstly instigated contact via an exchange of letters. After this, and learning from his half-brother that he had also himself attempted to trace the child, he had been told by social services that as he had been adopted, he could not have any information. Face to face contact was then arranged, again his keyworker was present at this meeting to support the child. As you can imagine it was very emotional for all. His half brother then requested for the child to live with him. We felt that this was in the child’s best interest. After several planning meetings, it was agreed that the half-brother and his partner should foster him. The local authority then, in our opinion, “dragged their feet” with this process, also at this time the social worker left.
When another social worker was given the case, we again pushed for him to be placed with his brother.
The social worker is relatively new to the job and, in our assessment, lacked confidence and experience.
I was contacted by the social worker to say that she had been “summoned” to attend an accommodation panel meeting, and that she would be in for a “grilling”, as to why the child had been with us so long and what exactly we had done for him. She also said she was told to expect to be told to give us 28 days’ notice following the panel and that they would be recommending that he be placed with his brother, whilst the local authority went for an SGO. She also said that she had been told that the local authority had to make savings and felt, in her opinion, that the move would be due to financial constraints and not about what is in the best interests of the child.
It was clear to us that the social worker was anxious about the process. Therefore, we felt we needed to brief her prior to the panel as to the significant progress he had made and the positive outcomes for this child. We did this, knowing that as residential workers, we know the children much better than the social worker and that we constantly measure outcomes.
We also felt that sometimes social workers can forget to recognise the progress made. This is especially so when a child may have had changes in social workers as was the case for this child.
We used the ECM outcomes for her to use and present to the panel. We did this in a chronological format, so she was able to see over the years the progress made, which we felt would enable her to present this in a confident manner.
We also reiterated that the placement with his brother prior to an SGO would be, in effect, an unregulated placement. We also advised she seek advice from the local authority’s legal department, which she did do and was told by them that it would in fact been an unregulated placement. This knowledge gave her the confidence to challenge the panel members, if needed.
We also stressed just how far the child had come and for the local authority to dictate timescales for this move would have a detrimental effect on his emotional wellbeing.
We were pleased to receive an email from the social worker, following the panel meeting to say, they had agreed to the child staying with us until the SGO goes through. The below is quoted from her email.
Phew the panic is over!
Our solicitor hopes to get a court date for the end of October.
It was recognised in the panel the FANTASTIC work xxx have done, well done, it was also mentioned that xxx have been rated outstanding by Ofsted.