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A review of the implementation of Part 12, as set out in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014
In the publication of A Nation with Ambition: The Government’s Programme for Scotland 2017-18 there was a commitment to ‘commission a progress review on the use of family support services to prevent children going into care’. One of the aims of Part 12 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 is to provide early and effective support services to prevent children unnecessarily entering the formal care system. The relevant services are Family group decision-making services and support services in relation to parenting.
The Scottish Government commissioned CELCIS to undertake this national review. The objectives were to explore the progress and journeys across thirty-two local authorities in supporting families where children are ‘at risk’ of becoming looked after. The review included an online survey (138 respondents), ten focus groups (84 participants) and analysis of all Children’s Service Plans.
Key learning points
1. Working with families using a strengths-based approach can lead to children and young people being loved, cared for and happy with the right support in place.
2. Legislation can play a strategic role in supporting service development for families; however, in isolation legislation does not lead to culture change. There was limited knowledge about Part 12: Children at risk of becoming looked after in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.
3. Poverty, parental drug and alcohol misuse, parental mental health, domestic abuse and parental learning disability are key factors that may contribute to children being taken into care in Scotland.
4. Children can be at risk of becoming looked after at all stages of childhood. The importance of relevant services for families with teenagers deserves greater attention.
5. Family group decision making (FGDM) services are flourishing in a small number of local authority areas in Scotland but require embedding into local systems to be effective across Scotland.
6. There is a lack of clarity about support for parenting as a relevant service.
7. Children’s Service Plans could be further utilised strategically to develop services to support families where children may be at risk of becoming looked after.
8. Access to information about support services for families is limited despite the legislative duty to publish information about relevant services.
The review highlights that family support can be required for children and their parents at all stages of childhood, from conception through to adulthood. There were a wide range of issues impacting on family life, most commonly identified as poverty, parental mental health, parental drug and alcohol misuse, domestic abuse and parental learning disabilities. In some cases, support may be short term; but in many instances, family support services are open and responsive to families’ needs and an ‘open door’ approach over time was key.
There is nothing like family work. Going back to basics. Listening to them, let them tell their stories, just try and support them and listen to them, not making judgements. (Family Support worker, focus group)
Values emerged at the heart of supporting families where identifying strengths in families and communities could be used to harness support through difficult times. This was clearly demonstrated in family group decision-making services where power was shared between social work services and families. Legislating for relevant services is one part of the jigsaw in supporting families where children are ‘at risk’ of becoming looked after. However, the power of legislation is in the implementation to make a meaningful difference to the lives of families.
For more information, please contact Dr Louise Hill (Policy Lead) Louise.Hill@strath.ac.uk Tel: 0141 444 8598
Access full report and summary here.
Other articles published in our June 2019 newsletter
Other articles about struggling families:
Other articles about early intervention: