Fortnightly Safeguarding Briefing

25th November 2019

Safeguarding Network - Confidence in safeguarding

Welcome to your latest briefing

The relentless march towards Christmas continues. It is however important to remember that for many people the stress that comes with Christmas goes well beyond that of trying to work out what to buy that difficult relation. By virtue of the way that society gears up for the event that is Christmas, regardless of religion or culture, there is a significant level of hype and expectation that comes with the festive season, this being linked to relentless advertising on the television and internet, along with shops doing everything they can to drum up sales.

For parents where money is limited balancing expectations of their children with what is available after day to day spending can be difficult, leading some to use doorstep lenders or find credit through other means. It is therefore important that we provide support wherever possible to families who are living in poverty. As this May 2019 article from TES shows, there can also be unintended impacts of poverty around Christmas.

Looked after children

In the last six weeks there have been several reports which provide insights into the impact of being looked after. This briefing will therefore focus on looked after children and the impact that being looked after can have. You can find out more information about children in the care of others on our website, as well as a page that explains the different legal orders that may support children living away from their birth parents.

Statistical table

What do the numbers tell us?

Whilst not necessarily the most interesting subject, the recent statistics from the government about foster care in England provide an insight into the experiences of children in care. The statistics note that whilst the number of fostering households has increased, the number of children entering foster care has increased at a faster rate, meaning that realistically there were less fostering placements available on the 31st March 2019 than on the same day a year earlier.

The knock on effect of this is something that we see on a daily basis within Children's Services, with the potential for children to be placed in any placement as an emergency (without there necessarily being consideration of whether the placement can meet the needs of the child), or placements being identified that are a significant distance from the child's home area. This can mean changes in school, loss of friendship networks and loss of other supports just at the point a child needs that consistency the most.

The same report also highlights that where fostering placements break down, a significant proportion of children (31%) are moved within 24 hours of placement breakdown. The report highlights that this has been an increasing figure over the last three years. If we again consider the impact of this, children and young people will be suddenly moved from one place to another loosing supports and at times not even knowing why they are moving or where they are going to.

Finally, the report also identifies that of the 6,395 children who went missing from foster care in the year to the end of March 2019, almost 20% of these were missing for over a week in total. This leads to the question of what is consistently happening for these children to cause them to go missing from placement. Are there push and / or pull factors at play, or is this an expression of frustration / unhappiness?

For more information, see our pages on children in care and children who go missing. Safeguarding Network members can access update packages to broaden the knowledge of staff in relation to these two key areas.

Fostering Network report front cover

The impact of relationships

Earlier this month the Fostering Network published research looking at the importance of children and young people maintaining contact with previous foster carers. As identified in the report's foreword:

An approach that too often, without reason, ends children’s important relationships is one that is not fit for purpose. Relationships are the golden threads that run through children’s lives. A support network of people who know a child well helps them to feel loved, develop a strong sense of self and maintain healthy relationships in the future.

As we saw above, for a significant proportion of children and young people, relationships are severed with very little notice, and whilst the argument is that the placement has broken down for some reason, both the maintaining and ending of relationships are important. The report highlights that support around maintaining relationships where possible, or ending them appropriately is not seen as a priority within the care system, and this can contribute to children going missing. Therefore as professionals, it is important to ensure that we look to ensure that any plan (particularly one that involves a move) includes support for the child around relationships.

Unexplained exits from school

The Education Policy Institute looked at unexplained pupil exits from English schools. Their analysis, published in October 2019, found that 1 in 3 of all looked after children and young people experienced an unexplained exit from school. Unexplained exits are described as "exits from a school to either another school, alternative provision or an unknown destination, where those exits do not appear to be driven by families or a formal exclusion."

The analysis identifies that nationally 1 in 10 pupils experienced unexplained exits at some point in their time at secondary school that could not be accounted for, meaning that once again, the figures for children looked after are disproportionately high. The analysis also shows that:

  • over 1 in 4 (27.0%) of all pupils with identified mental health needs (SEMH);
  • around 1 in 6 (15.6%) of all poorer pupils (those who have ever been on free school meals);
  • around 1 in 6 (15.7%) of all pupils with identified special educational needs (SEND);
  • around 1 in 7 (13.9%) of all pupils from black ethnic backgrounds.

These additional statistics are also important as looked after children often face multiple vulnerabilities. It is therefore important that as professionals we ensure that children who are looked after, regardless of placement type, receive an appropriate and consistent education as we know that even small disruptions in education can have a significant impact.

Who are we?

Safeguarding Network recognise that the demands on schools are increasing from every aspect. Safeguarding is no exception. Using our front-line safeguarding experience and knowledge we develop resources to help schools meet their safeguarding requirements with the aim of helping lighten the load.

Visit https://safeguarding.network/subscribe for more information.

Like what you see?

Sign up to receive your own copy direct to your inbox here:

Visit our archive page to see previous briefings.