The next section summarises some of the issues and patterns associated with the approach to delivering sufficient provision i.e. ensuring there are the right type of placements in the right place at the right time to meet our children’s needs.

Warrington Fostering (Foster4)

Our aim is to meet the needs of as many children as possible within appropriate family care arrangements predominantly foster care, including family and friend carers.

The preferred option for every child who cannot live with their parents is to grow up in the care of their family or with an adult with whom they have an existing significant relationship (kinship care).

The fostering service works closely with the social work teams when undertaking viability assessments in respect of friends and family members who may be able to provide placements for children in care.

When this cannot be achieved a placement with Warrington local authority foster carers remains the next best option for the majority of children who are unable to live with their birth parents or relatives. The provision of a high quality, effective, child centred, in-house fostering service is a core objective for improving outcomes for children and young people and ensuring placement within local communities.

On 1st April 2018 a collaborative foster carer recruitment hub (Foster 4) was launched. This involves four local authorities working together on the recruitment of foster carers across the Cheshire region: Warrington, Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester and Halton.

The fostering service has grown considerably in the past three years. Whilst the placement of children with foster carers as a proportion of the total children in care population has risen slightly in the last 12 months, the overall number of households and placements has reduced.

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Warrington's internal fostering service has: 154 approved households with capacity to care for 318 children
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Historic figures on households that foster. 2017: 122 households with 221 places. 2018: 143 households with 343 places. 2019: 166 households with 347 placements. 2020: 154 households with 318 placements

Of our 154 placements; 100 are with mainstream Foster Carers, 52 with Family and Friends Carers and 2 with Short Break Carers.

During the financial year 2019/2020, there were 34 approvals of recruited foster carer households within Warrington. This includes 13 mainstream Foster Carer households, 20 Family and Friends Carers and 1 Short Breaks household. Twelve applications remain in progress on 31st March 2020.

During 2019-20, 42 households deregistered compared to just 18 the previous year. The majority of these related to family and friends carers where the child had been granted legal permanence.

At the end of March 2020, there were 212 children and young people in internal foster care, including 74 placed in an approved friends or family placement.

The following chart illustrates the distribution of fostering placements for the last six years (excluding family and friends).

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Fostering placements in borough vs outside by year. 2014 101 placements in area 36 outside of area. 2015 97 placements within the area 54 outside. 2016: 106 placements within the area 80 outside. 2017: 105 placements within the area 81 outside. 2018: 106 placements within teh area 101 outside. 2019: 101 placements insode the area 90 outside.

It highlights, for example, that the number of out of area placements reached a high point of 101 in March 2018, although this has decreased over the past two years. It is important to acknowledge that Warrington will inevitably have more out of area placements with it being a relatively small in size. The majority of these children are placed in neighbouring boroughs, well within 20 miles of their original home.

Independent Foster Agencies

According to the Placement North West Census, the number of children placed with Independent Foster Agency placements rose in recent years from 41 in July 2014 to a peak of 66 in March 2019. As children in care numbers have fallen alongside a recruitment drive for our own foster carers, according to the latest figure (December 2019) from the Placement North West Census, 58 of our children in care were in external placements. Around 90% are purchased via the North West framework which offers confidence of quality and value for money.

The regional analysis shows a 13% increase in the number of IFA placements across the North West since December 2017, due to the increasing children in care population across the North West and difficulties with in-house provision not keeping pace with the level of demand and complexity for fostering placements.  A number of local authorities like Warrington are reducing their reliance on agency placements and have reduced their numbers by 5% over the same time period.

Between December 2017 and December 2019, the average weekly external fostering costs across the North West increased by £48 (6%) to £833. Costs in Warrington rose over the same time period by £80, from £786 to £867, an increase of 10%.

Residential

The use of any residential provision should be in exceptional circumstances and where all options of a family placement have been explored and are not possible. The previous increase in Warrington’s use of residential provision was driven mostly by rising numbers of teenagers requiring placements coupled with increasing levels of complexity and need which they often present. This can include, but is not exhaustive risk of criminal / sexual exploitation, sexualised / challenging behaviour, offending and poor mental health.

The proportion of our children in care in residential placements has increased slightly since March 2019 from 13% to 13.5%, and we are higher than our comparators. Placement of children in residential settings as a proportion of the total children in care population was 11-12% in England, North West and our Statistical Neighbours.  This is based on the DfE published data definition of residential, including children’s homes, secure units and semi-independent living (including hostels).

Description

(March)

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Statistical

 Neighbours

England

North West

Number of Children in Care in residential accommodation (includes 8 internal places)

38

48

49

45

40

50

49

n/a

n/a

n/a

Percentage of Children in Care in residential accommodation

16%

16%

14%

12%

11%

13%

13.5%

10%

12%

11%

 

In Warrington we currently have 4 mainstream Children’s Homes (1x3 bed / 3x2 bed) and a short break home for children with a disability. We have 2 homes with an Ofsted Rating of Outstanding, 1 Good and 2 as Requires Improvement. In 2020-21 we plan to close at least 1 of our homes and develop this into Supported Accommodation. Therefore, the majority of our children in residential care are placed externally, this includes children with a disability.

According to the Placements North West (PNW) Census, the number of children in care in external residential placements has increased regionally. Numbers increased in the North West by 55%, from 840 in December 2017 to 1302 in December 2019. Warrington’s external placements almost doubled, increasing from 16 to 31 over the same time period; a rise of 94%.

In the North West, average weekly costs have increased by 13% from £3405 in December 2017 to £3833 in December 2019. In Warrington, average weekly costs have increased by 26%, from £3094 in in December 2017 to £3894 in December 2019.

In December 2018, (2017 not available in PNW), total weekly spend on external residential in Warrington was £106,202. This increased by 14% to £120,729 in December 2019.

Residential Commissioned Provision

All Residential placements for our Young People are secured via the Placements North West Regional framework, led by Bolton Local Authority, for Residential Homes and Semi and Independent Living (SaILs). These Flexible/Dynamic Purchasing Systems is reviewed annually. 

The Special Educational Needs Residential framework is currently subject to the tender process with a view to implementation early 2021.

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Graph showing the % of placements on the regional purchasing system vs all placements. The graph shows a number of authorities across the northwest

Prior to any residential placement being considered, all attempts to find a fostering placement have been exhausted. The decision is search for a residential placement is based on a thorough assessment of the needs of each child to determine if a residential placement is the only setting which can meet their needs.

All of Warrington children and young people are in a residential setting that has been rated ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted.

Although the number of Warrington residential placements with external providers is rising, almost half (20) of the young people have been in their current setting for over 12 months; 6 of which have been in their current home for two and a half years or more. This is evidence that the home is providing a safe, secure, stable setting and confirming that the initial matching, the needs and risk assessment and care planning is personalised to each child; minimising moves and improving the outcomes achievable for each child.

The stability of the residential placements is encouraged by collaborative working with stakeholders and providers with effective care planning and ‘move on’ accommodations being identified at an early stage. Children are fundamental in the decision making process to identify their semi-independent accommodation.

Adoption & Permanence

Together for Adoption, (TfA) Regional Adoption Agency is a shared Local Authority Service of five partners; Halton, Cheshire West and Chester, St Helens, Warrington, and Wigan. The service went live on the 1September 2017. The partnership was formed in line with the Government Policy Paper, “Regionalising Adoption” in 2015. All Local Authorities are required to regionalise their adoption services by 2020.

Wigan Council is the host Authority, and Cheshire West and Chester Council operates as the lead commissioner. The staff are currently seconded to Wigan. 

Together for Adoption’s hub base is in Warrington, a central point in the geographical footprint for the partners:

Bewsey Park
Troutbeck Avenue
Warrington
WA5 0BA

The shared adoption service is part of the wider Children’s Social Care Service in all five local authorities and reflects each council’s commitment to ‘best practice’ in the provision of an innovative adoption service.

Together for Adoption has three Voluntary Adoption Agencies included as part of our development and governance of our adoption service; Adoption Matters, Caritas Care, and Nugent Care Their inclusion draws on the best practice from each of the partners and helps meet changing demands through the pooling of expertise and resources.

Vision for TfA

  • All children for whom adoption is the plan for permanence are provided with an adoptive family that meets their needs.
  • Those affected by adoption receive the information, support and advice that they need to understand their adoption journey.
  • TfA families are well prepared, enabled and supported to care for children with plans for adoption.

In Children’s social care reform: a vision for change (2016) the government outlined its overarching vision for transforming the quality of children’s social care services by 2020. In respect of adoption, the government’s vision is for an adoption system where:

  • Decisions about placements are always made in children’s best interests.
  • Service delivery has at its heart innovation and practice excellence.
  • Social workers are highly skilled professionals who make quality, evidence-based decisions and do not tolerate damaging delay for children in their care.
  • Matches are made without unnecessary delay.
  • Every adoptive family has access to an ongoing package of appropriate support with a right to a high quality, specialist assessment of need.
  • The voice of adopters and their children is at the heart of national and local policy decision making and delivery of services.

Together for Adoption aims to:

  • Provide all children who have a plan for adoption with an adoptive family that meets their needs.
  • Reduce the length of time children wait to be adopted.
  • Ensure that those who are affected by adoption, receive the advice support and information they need.               

Together for Adoption delivers the following services;

  • The recruitment of persons as prospective adopters;
  • The assessment of applicant’s suitability to adopt a child;
  • The approval of prospective adopters as suitable to adopt a child;
  • Identifying a particular approved prospective adopter with whom it proposes a child be placed, as soon as reasonably practicable.
  • Managing the process by which recommendations in individual cases are formally submitted to Adoption Panels and to facilitate consideration by the relevant local authority decision-maker.
  • The provision of adoption support services, including facilitating post adoption contact with birth families, and access to birth records for adopted adults. 

In Warrington, in 2019-20, 19 children (14.2% of children who ceased to be in care) were adopted during the year. This is an improvement since 2018-19 and above our comparators (all averages show 12% ceased to be in care through adoption).

Over the last 2 years there has been a rigorous focus on securing legal permanence for older children through Special Guardianship. In 2019-20, 24 children (17.9% of those children who ceased to be in care) were discharged from care to Special Guardianship, which is almost double the number when compared to our Statutory Neighbours (10%).

Young People aged 16+ and Care Leavers; Group, Supported, Semi-Independent and Independent Living Development & Plans

Warrington prides itself on offering suitable accommodation to children aged 16+ and care leavers and this will continue to be a priority for the council. As of the 31st March 2020 there were 74 children aged 16 plus who are children in care.

The high majority of these children remain in fully supported placements (foster care /children’s home), however a number as part of their pathway planning arrangements move into supported accommodation and then onto independent living. According to the Placements North West Census, we had 25 children aged 16 plus residing in these types of placement in December 2019, and although numbers have not increased significantly since 2018 (23), the costs have risen by 20%. This is currently higher than the regional average.

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Graph showing average weekly spend from December 2018 to December 2019. The data shows that the spend was around £1100 with a dip to around £900 in March 2019 which has risen and plateaued at around £1300 up to December 2019

At the end of the March 2020, provisional data indicates there were 158 care leavers in Warrington including:

  • 65 eligible care leavers
  • 5 relevant care leavers and;
  • 88 former relevant care leavers.

For those who were aged 19-21 in 2019-20, 54.4% were in education, employment or training (EET), broadly in line with national and regional averages.

Eighty-nine care leavers (89%) were in suitable accommodation, in line with national and regional averages. This is an improvement on the 83% in the previous year. The suitable accommodation covers young people living with parents or relatives; still placed with former foster carer (Staying Put); Foyer accommodation providing EET support; supported lodgings; Semi-independent transitional accommodation; community home or other form of residential care and in independent living.

Staying put or other arrangements are used to minimise disruption whilst accepting that for some young people they will seek independence and need support to do this safely, through assessed packages of support.

Our aim has always been to contract provision that will support young people to develop practical skills and emotional stability as most young people will require assistance with practical tasks such as cooking, budgeting and shopping economically, while others will need more emotional support. Extended arrangements will need to offer the encouragement and guidance to assist the young person to develop their independence in a safe and appropriate way. This includes a number of USAC.

Many of our current post 16 and care leavers are requiring additional emotional and behavioural support. Helping young people to get to home ready is a challenge as is the difficulty in accessing housing post supported living. Additionally many do not possess the skills required to live independently and manage their own tenancy.

In order to strengthen further sufficiency in this area and address cost issues, we intend to open 2 new ‘supported accommodation’ houses for 4 young people in the next 12-18 months. This will be in addition to the supported accommodation connected to the No Wrong Door Hub.  This provision will be managed in-house and we plan to link in with our Education, Training and Skills team to put together bespoke learning packages to support young people in their transition to independence.

Our long term objective is to build relationship with local housing providers to offer more secure tenancies to young people, whilst ensuring seamless support as they move from child to adulthood.

Disabillity, Special Educational Needs Development and Plans

Warrington operates a short break residential service for children with a disability, which has been an ‘Outstanding’ provision for over 10 years. The Short Break Home provides short-term residential breaks, to young people and children with Physical disabilities or learning disabilities. In addition to this excellent support to young people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Children can access the service from aged 3 to 17. The home can provide residential breaks for up to three children or young people, of either gender, at any one time.

There are currently 30 children and young people who access Westlands Drive. 24 of these children and young people have overnight respite and the remaining children and young people access the outreach service, which includes a child visiting after school to undertake an activity and they are provided with their teatime meal before returning home. 

In 2019/20 the estimated unit cost per session of a child attending Westlands was £432.

It has been identified that:

  • There is a waiting list for Short Break Residential Care.
  • There is currently no family-based care provision for children under S17 with disabilities.
  • There is very limited in-house family-based care provision for children in care who have disabilities or additional needs.

More local options are required to meet the needs of children in care that have special educational needs and or disabilities and we continue to explore how this may be achieved. In order to do this we plan to extend our outreach offer short break foster care provision, develop our family-based care provision and are going to commence a scoping exercise to look at the best models of long term care for children with specific needs, which cannot currently be served within our own internal provision.