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Good practice guide

Children in residential care

Self-assessment checklist for councils

Clear outcomes for children which are specified in their care plan

  • We are clear about the outcomes we wish to achieve for our children and young people in residential care and we have agreed targets that reflect these.
  • These outcomes include clear targets for educational attainment.
  • There is shared agreement across all departments in this council about the outcomes we wish to achieve for our children and young people in residential care.
  • There is shared agreement between this council and its partners (including the NHS board and independent providers) about the outcomes we wish to achieve for our children and young people in residential care.

Care planning for individual children

  • All children and young people in residential placements have individual care plans.
  • These care plans clearly set out short, medium and long-term outcomes for each young person.
  • The actions required to help the young person achieve these outcomes are set out in a SMART action plan against which progress can be monitored.
  • We review and update care plans for children and young people in residential care in line with statutory requirements.

Clear strategies and plans based on review

  • We have a clear strategy for residential child care. This is based on a Best Value review of residential child care services, focused on both in-house provision and services from independent providers, completed within the last three years.
  • We have a clear, costed plan for residential child care to which we have allocated an appropriate budget. The plan is monitored at least quarterly.
  • We have considered either full joint budgeting that includes social work, education and health, or at least a standard approach to funding residential school placements that would avoid the need for negotiation on a case-by-case basis.

Forecasting future need

  • We have estimated future demand for residential child care services in the short, medium and long term.
  • These estimates are based on a review of the residential child care services utilised by the council over the last three years (in-house provision and services from independent providers).
  • We have identified how we will meet the forecast needs.
  • Where we have identified that needs cannot be met locally, we are working with providers, other councils and/or national initiatives to find ways of filling these gaps.

Options appraisal

  • We know the full cost of our in-house residential child care provision (including central overheads) per child and how it varies with occupancy rates.
  • We have properly evaluated all our service delivery options for residential child care services. We have used accurate cost information to make strategic decisions about the
    balance between in-house and independent provision.

Development of service specifications

  • To develop consistent service specifications, we have worked with independent providers and other councils, and drawn on the experience of English councils.

In-house provision – service level agreements

  • We have service level agreements in place for our in-house provision. These set out what services are being commissioned, to what quality standards, and what outcomes are intended.
  • Service level agreements are monitored at least twice a year to ensure that children and young people are receiving an appropriate service.

Contractual arrangements

  • We have full contractual arrangements in place with all the independent providers we use. These set out what services are being commissioned, to what quality standards, and what outcomes are intended, as well as the cost and payment arrangements.
  • Contractual arrangements are monitored at least twice a year to ensure that children and young people are receiving an appropriate service.
  • We are using a standard contract or we are working with independent providers, other councils, COSLA and the Scottish Government to develop one.

Purchase of specialised services

  • We are actively engaged in national and regional approaches to purchasing specialised services.
  • We are drawing on the experience of other procurement exercises in the council and are making use of national guidance on procurement and commissioning.

Monitoring and review

  • Within the last three years, we have undertaken a Best Value review of residential child care, covering services provided directly by the council and services provided by the independent sector.
  • We undertake a Best Value review of residential child care every three years, renew our strategy every three years and monitor and review our plans on an annual basis.
  • We have reviewed our systems for recording management information about children in residential care to ensure that they support effective decision-making.
  • We make available regular, consistent and accurate information for senior managers and councillors to help them understand and make strategic decisions about residential child care services.

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