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Corporate parenting strategy - 2023 - 2028

It is our shared privilege to introduce this strategy which is a cumulation of conversations with children and young people who are experts in their experience, and with the families, carers and partner agencies who are involved in their journey. It sets out our vision for improving the experience of children in care and care leavers through corporate parenting.

Using a partnership approach, we will remain relentlessly focused on helping keep children and their families together. Our approach will continue to be responsive and respectful and when children and young people do need to come into our care, we will be committed to ensuring they have opportunities to experience:

  • A home where they feel loved, valued and nurtured
  • Loving and lasting relationships
  • A quality education
  • Fulfilling work and training opportunities
  • Good health

We aim to build on the great progress and achievements made so far (see Appendix 1 for the detail) and continue to strive to be the best corporate parents we can be for our children and young people. We will remain aspirational in everything we do and ensure children, young people and their families’ voices are heard during their care journey with us.

Their views will also help shape future direction and services. We will also continue to build children and young people’s emotional resilience in readiness for their transition into adulthood and beyond.

Mark Sutton
Cabinet Member for Children and Young People 

Neelam Bhardwaja
Director for Children and Families 

Claire Cartwright
Head of Children in our Care and Care Leavers

Children in care council and care leavers forum

We are a group of young people who are cared for and have joined together to form the Children in Care Council.

It is important to us that our voice is heard in shaping the services that support us through our care journey. We require support to ensure we are happy, healthy, safe and have access to a good education.

We want those supporting us to share our ambitions and support us to thrive, to join us in celebrating our successes and guide us when we are struggling.

The Corporate Parenting Panel work alongside us and help us to influence positive change through the consultation and action plans we work on together.

Who are corporate parents?

For those children and young people who are unable to live with their parents or guardians, it is our legal duty under the Children Act 1989 to act as corporate parents when they become cared for.

This duty is not just for social workers, it is everyone’s responsibility. For example, professionals working with the child/young person, and everyone who works at the council including all councillors. It is also the responsibility of all our partners such as health, police, education, and housing.

It takes a whole team to support a cared for child/young person and care leaver, not just one person.

Everyone needs to be concerned about the child/young person as if they were their own, and it is important that our partners understand how they too can support our shared corporate parenting responsibilities.

"I would like the same approach to be applied to children in care as any good parenting would involve. Recognising the individual, providing opportunities for holistic developing of social, spiritual, physical, psychological and educational growth as a rounded response." - Staffordshire Foster Carer

“Immensely important and meaningful responsibility for people’s lives - it can’t be a dry paper/business response.” - Staffordshire Care Leaver

Who are the Corporate Parenting Panel?

The Corporate Parenting Panel’s role is to raise awareness and promote a shared responsibility of corporate parenting with all councillors, County Council and partner colleagues.

They are a critical friend to help and challenge the whole system to improve outcomes for our cared for children, young people and care leavers.

The Panel will be working throughout the life of this strategy to raise awareness of corporate parenting so that they can influence colleagues and partners to help address the challenges that are being identified.

Corporate parenting principles

In Staffordshire, we will:

  • Make sure children and young people have access to:
    • Loving stable homes
    • Quality education
    • Fulfilling work or training opportunities
    • Any other services that they need
  • Act in the child's best interest
  • Prioritise and promote relationships in our interaction
  • Be attachment aware and trauma informed, understanding children's lived experience
  • Promote the physical, mental health and wellbeing for children, and build their emotional resilience
  • Find creative ways to encourage children and young people to express their views, wishes and feelings
  • Always celebrate your successes
  • Be inspirational and aspirational in planning for our children and young people
  • Embed a culture of reflection and learning
  • Appropriately prepare children and young people for adulthood and independent living throughout their care journey.

Making it happen

We will support children and young people in our care or leaving care to grow well and live well.

Together with our cared for children/young people, care leavers and their carers, the Corporate Parenting Panel has developed four promises which set out how it will support them and deliver the vision.

A key focus will also be to work with our partners to help them understand their corporate parenting responsibilities and use our influence to make sure our children in care and care leavers receive the services they need at the time they need them.

“Corporate parenting is also about being the voice and the advocate to ensure the child’s wishes, views and feelings are heard, and to also champion ways and strategies for children to have positive experiences throughout their care journey and to achieve better outcomes.” - Registered manager at children's home.

Our four promises

Answer:

You said:

  • It’s important to me to have the chance to speak to my social worker on my own, over the phone and face to face.
  • The Voice Project encourages young people to join its forums to have their say on the services supporting them.
  • Delegated Authority needs to be clearer to young people and communicated in very simple terms.

"I need to see who they are (faces and names) and understand what they can do." - Care experienced child talking about corporate parenting

Answer:

You said

  • "Support me with my health conditions, taking me to appointments and asking how I'm feeling."
  • “It’s important for young people to know where they have come from, their past and their identity.”
  • “Make sure I’m happy.”

“The corporate parents need to be made aware that it is a big issue, and that young people need support through it, even when they are in an unstable placement.” - Care experienced young person talking about mental health. 

Good health

Before you come into care, ask your family about you and your family’s health history (this is to find out if there are conditions such as diabetes in the family).

Ask you to have a basic health check when you come into care - helping us and you understand how healthy you are (really informal and you won’t need to undress or talk about things you don’t want to). You can have a health check every year for as long as you are in our care if you want to.

You are registered straight away with a doctor, dentist and optician.

Talk about your health at every cared for/ pathway plan review. Making sure all your plans are joined up.

Help you attend appointments if you are a care leaver.

Provide information and advice for you and your carers on how to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Provide a leisure allowance for care leavers.

Create a health passport for when you leave care which lists things such as the injections you’ve had.

Understand who you are and develop your own identity

During assessments before you come into care, we will gather as much information about you and your family as possible.

Help you to understand your past and what’s happening in your future.

Ensure you have access to support to help you develop your identity, including social activities.

Create opportunities for you to meet other cared for children or care leavers through the Children in Care Council, Care Leavers Forum and other events.

Support you to succeed

Support you to feel happy and healthy.

Support you to do well at home and at school/ college.

Support you to have friends and a strong support network.

Healthy and safe relationships

Help you to develop and maintain relationships with people that are important to you.

Promote family time that meets your needs.

Help you to maintain or regain contact with people important to you.

Help you to understand the dangers of risky relationships and misusing drugs and alcohol.

Build emotional resilience

Continue to work with you and your family during your care journey to see if there are any opportunities for you to safely return home.

Provide you with access to advocacy and independent visitor service when you need it.

Help you to manage your mental health by making sure you know which services can support you.

Make sure, every year, your foster carers (if you are aged between 2 and 17) complete a strengths and difficulties questionnaire which helps us understand how you are feeling emotionally.

Support you to be a good parent when the time comes

Provide you with the support you need at the earliest opportunity.

Provide you with a mentor who has parenting experience if you want one.

Answer:

You said

  • Supportive housing: to give me more training to manage own tenancy.
  • The social workers call me out the blue to check in and see if I am alright.
  • Young people wanted someone in their local community for advice on the local area and any local issues they were experiencing.

“Make sure they are always in contact and make the effort to stay in contact with the young person. To make sure that the young person knows they can trust them.” - Care experienced young person talking about corporate parents.

Safe place to live

Before you come into care, fully assess your needs so we understand who is best to care for you.

Wherever you live, ensure it is safe and you have opportunities to have loving relationships with, feel valued and are nurtured by those people.

We visit you regularly and talk to you alone to ask if you feel safe. If you don’t, we will work with you to understand why and what needs to happen next.

Stable home

We continue to work with you and your family during your care journey to see if there are any opportunities for you to safely return home.

If it is not safe for you to return home, ensure that your forever home is planned for quickly.

We only change your school, college or university if we absolutely have to. If there are any concerns identified with your school or college, we will address them quickly.

Sense of belonging

You are supported to build new relationships where you are now living, whilst making sure you can keep in touch with the people who are important to you where you used to live if you are unable to continue living in or near your community.

If you are living outside of Staffordshire, we offer you the same support as if you were living in Staffordshire.

Protecting you from harm

The people who work for us are safe adults.

We provide regular training for our staff, foster carers and residential care workers on how to keep you safe.

We provide information and advice about the risks you may face whilst growing up, such as drugs and alcohol misuse, criminal and sexual exploitation.

You have someone to talk to if you are worried.

You are made safe, as quickly as possible if you are at risk.

Clarity in decision making

When decisions need to be made about you, they are done in a timely way.

The people looking after you know what decisions they can make for you from the moment they start to look after you, such as having a sleepover (delegated authority).

Our staff, foster carers and residential care staff receive a good level of training to help them to understand your needs and have the confidence to make decisions.

Preparation for living independently

You are prepared for adulthood at the earliest opportunity and support you to complete the independence programme as soon as you are ready.

This gives you the skills to live independently. There is a clear plan for your future which allows time for you to get ready for independence.

You are supported to live independently when you leave care. You are provided with opportunities to ‘stay put’ with your foster carer or ‘stay close’ to your residential home when you turn 18.

You are provided with opportunities to move into supported accommodation or your own tenancy.

We continue to work with housing providers to enable you to have a permanent and safe home. We provide a smooth transition to adult services where this is appropriate.

Our care leaver offer remains ambitious and inspirational.

Answer:

You said

  • "Treat them as individuals and ensure their care plans reflect their individual needs" - Staffordshire Foster Carer
  • "Involve me in activities that I find interesting and fun so I can learn" - Care experienced child
  • Support from secondary school to help me choose the right course to help me reach my career goals.

High aspirations

We will ensure everyone has high aspirations for you. You are supported to “reach for the stars” in everything you want to do.

We will think big and want you to do the same. If things don’t work out, we will always be there for you and never give up on you.

We will all celebrate your successes.

We will support you to have a stable education.

We will aspire for our education settings to be trauma informed and attachment aware.

Ambitious plans

When we write your plans with you, you feel inspired by the opportunities you have.

Your plans are aspirational, regularly reviewed and joined up.

Your plans have clear actions, you understand what is happening and when.

When there are any changes in your situation, they are fully planned for and you always know what is happening next (this includes your care plan or pathway plan, placement plan, personal education plan and an Education Health and Care Plan if you have one).

We support you to learn from your mistakes (because there will be some) and help you to grow from those experiences.

Schools, colleges and universities know about Raising Attainment for Disadvantaged Youngsters (RADY) and encourage them to take part in it.

Good education

You attend nurseries, schools or colleges that are ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’

You have regular Personal Education Plan (PEP) meetings and we address any needs that you might have.

Education settings follow the corporate parenting principles.

You attend school regularly and take part in your lessons.

You receive the support you need in school or college to be the best that you can be.

A mentoring scheme is provided for care leavers.

Care leavers are supported to progress to further or higher education.

Opportunities and support

You are supported to attend educational trips.

We create good work experience and apprenticeship opportunities for you.

You have a passport so you can travel abroad. We will ensure you have a wide range of experiences such as going to the theatre, eating out at a restaurant, having a holiday and enjoying a hobby.

Celebration events

When you have achieved something, this is always recognised

There will be a celebration event for you and your carers every year if you wish to attend.

We will ensure your education achievements are celebrated if you wish.

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Implementing the strategy

Each year the Corporate Parenting Panel, alongside the Children in Care Council, the Care Leavers Forum, and our partners and carers will measure how well we have delivered against the promises and an annual delivery plan will be created.

The Head of Service for Children in Our Care and Care Leavers will manage the delivery of the plan, bringing a progress update to the Corporate Parenting Panel every three months.

The strategy will also be shared with all those involved in children and young people’s lives. 

Appendix

Progress against the corporate parenting priorities from the previous strategy:

  • Senior mental health leads in education network
  • Place on corporate parenting panel reserved for and attended by a foster carer
  • Training for Foster Carers.
  • Hot topic events about physical health, understanding your past, delegated authority and young parents.
  • District representative for 7/8 councils on Corporate Parenting Panel. All volunteered to be district champions for Children in Care and Care Leavers.
  • Commissioned psychological services to help us better understand needs of care experienced children.
  • Catch 22
  • Launched Care Leaver Offer and Children in Care Action Plan.
  • Shared stories from care leavers about their experiences, including being gender neutral, with the workforce to develop their awareness and understanding.
  • Corporate Parenting Panel members are raising the profile in committees and groups they attend.
  • Joint commissioning of early help emotional wellbeing support through Action for Children.
  • Improved partnership co-ordination of services and support seeking to bring a coherent offer to national programmes of support delivered locally (Mental Health Support Teams and the DfE / DHSC Wellbeing for Education Return / Recovery projects).
  • Launched the children and young people in care out of area Midlands mental health principles of good practice (Oct 21).
  • Activity days for care leavers (beach trip, Alton Towers, celebration date and residential trip for UASC).
  • Health representative attends Corporate Parenting Panel at least once a year.
  • EPEPS revised to strengthen the voice of the child.
  • Big Fostering arrangements.
  • Partnership has improved timeliness of health assessments.
  • Provided access to T3 services for substance misuse issues.
  • Improved incentives for care leavers to take part in the Foundations to Employment.
  • Improved responses to systematic issues such as access, shared understanding of performance and prevention of poor mental health.
  • Provided memory boxes for children in care.
  • Developed homelessness protocol between SCC and partners.
  • SEND and Inclusion Hubs in place to support graduated response.
  • Provided £160,000 worth of grants for community organisations to help young adults with mental health conditions.
  • PSHE co-ordinators in post.
  • Commissioned framework arrangements for placements.
  • Launched Mockingbird
  • Virtual school activities developing access to cultural and sporting opportunities through the West Midlands Children in Care Foundation.
  • Children in Care Council, Cared For and 2 Care Leaver and out of county forums held.
  • Adoption of the (NHSE) Midlands Children in Care Out of Area Mental Health Good Practice Principles launched.
  • Established care experienced children and young people mental health task and finish group
  • Offer guaranteed apprenticeships interviews for care leavers.
  • Housing advisors for homelessness (externally funded).
  • Changed the language for how we refer to children in care and launched Language That Cares Dictionary
  • Implemented long-term savings policy.
  • Corporate Parenting Panel attend activities and events.
  • Improved partnership communications through Kind Minds Newsletter, senior mental health leads network meetings and promotion of Emotional Wellbeing Pathway
  • Provided access to YOS prevention programme.
  • Continued Staying Put Offer. Provided Independence Programme module on relationships and support networks.
  • Commissioned Action for Children to support children and young people with low to moderate mental health needs.
  • Positive focused visit by Ofsted in May 2022.
  • Annual Easter Egg and Christmas present appeal for care leavers and their children.
  • Attachment aware and trauma informed training for schools.
  • Regular surveys and newsletters.
  • Planning for a House Project in Tamworth
  • Expanded capacity of Virtual School to cover Early Years and Post 16.
  • Annual foster carer BBQ.
  • Christmas meal for care leavers.
  • Social value clause included in commissioning requirements

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