By Helen Happer, Chief Inspector Strategic ScrutinyHelen Happer Photo

We’re changing our joint inspections of services for children and young people in community planning partnerships from April 2018. This revised model now takes a more focused look at the experiences and outcomes for children and young people who need protection or who are care experienced. As part of this development we will be revising some aspects of our methodology and we want to keep you updated as we roll out these changes.

Why are these changes happening?

The Scottish Government’s child protection improvement programme, set up in 2016, reported back earlier this year and set out a vision for a child protection system in Scotland that places the wellbeing of children at the heart of everything it does.

As part of this review, Scottish ministers asked us to work with our scrutiny partners to develop a revised model of inspection that takes a more focused look at children and young people whose life experiences make them potentially more vulnerable to poor outcomes than their peers. In particular, they want us to look at how well partners – health, education, police, social work and the third sector – work together to protect the most vulnerable children. These are children who are living with significant risks and are involved in the child protection system, those looked after at or away from home and those young people eligible for through and after care support.

Corporate parents and partners who work to protect children

We want to see how effective the partners are at identifying those children and at reducing risks promptly for them, working together to make them safer within their families. We will seek to consider how partners are helping children and young people who have experienced abuse and neglect to stay safe, healthy and well and to recover from their experiences.

In addition, we were asked to look at the experiences and outcomes of those who were subject to corporate parenting responsibilities and whether partners’ work together is achieving real improvements in their lives and helping these young people to succeed into adulthood. This will include children and young people who are looked after away from home in fostering, residential and secure care, those who are using through and after care services.

We are going to take a closer look at the support provided for those who are looked after at home, and those in kinship care because we know less about the experiences and outcomes for these children and young people. We will take account of the rights of looked after children and care leavers and the duties, powers and expectations placed on corporate parents.

What young people should expect from their care and support

The introduction of the new inspections coincided with the introduction of the new Health and Social Care Standards. These standards set out what people should experience from their care and support, right across health, children’s services, social work, and social care. This new type of inspection comes on top of the Care Inspectorate’s continuing work inspecting and supporting improvement in care homes, and other residential settings, for children and young people.

Hearing the voices of children and young people

We have been talking to care experienced children and young people, many of whom also have experience of child protection systems, to find out what they think we should be looking at and what questions the inspections should answer. Their most important message is that children and young people should be enabled to experience sincere human contact and enduring relationships.

So we need to look at how well the system is organised to ensure children and young people can experience continuity in their care and develop lasting relationships. We also need to look at how well staff are supported and equipped for their task.

It might seem that this kind of inspection is a bit removed from the real lives of children and young people, but what is important is that we will be finding more and better ways to hear their voices throughout the inspection. We want to learn how well they understand and have been involved in decisions and plans about their care and support, and how well they think professionals work together to promote their wellbeing.

We will continue to work with young inspection volunteers who meet with young people and interview staff as part of inspections and help us decide what is working and what isn’t. Where we find successful approaches and real strengths we will be highlighting these for others to see and learn from.

We will continue to assess how well leaders work together and how they can demonstrate the difference they are making to the lives of children in need of protection and those for whom they are corporate parents.

Revised Quality Improvement Framework

We are revising the Quality Improvement Framework (QIF) which services can use to evaluate their own work together and which we will use to help us tell the story of what we find when we inspect. We are doing this work in collaboration with a range of stakeholders and we have issued a consultation for stakeholders to give their feedback. If you would like to read the draft quality improvement framework consultation and complete the survey, please visit our Consultations page.

Data improvement

We are collaborating with Scottish Government and CELCIS, the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland, to develop a shared data set. We issued a consultation on this for stakeholders which closed recently. Having an agreed data set which everyone can use should support partners to demonstrate how well they are working together to keep children safe and improve their outcomes.

The aim is that, over time, interrogating returns on this data set, along with other information and intelligence, will support better assessment of what partnerships are doing well, and where they are more challenged. In time, this information should help us target scrutiny and improvement activity to where it can be of most benefit. We recognise this may take some time to achieve but are hopeful about the potential of this work to support a more proportionate approach to scrutiny.

What next?

We will continue to engage with our advisory group and other stakeholders as we develop the new inspection model and we will publish regular progress updates as we roll out these changes.

More detailed information on our revised model for joint inspections is available on the Care Inspectorate website.