4. Children and Young People
We have a vision that South Gloucestershire is a place where all children and young people enjoy a safe and healthy life, achieve their maximum potential and thrive in their community. As part of this we aim to ensure that children, young people and their families are provided with integrated, accessible and equitable services which are designed to keep them safe, healthy and inspired to do the very best they can.
In addition, the Health and Wellbeing Strategy and the Partnership Strategy for Children and Young People, both set strategic direction to further integrate frontline services so as to provide a more streamlined experience for families, building on the co-location of services within Children’s Hubs already achieved.
Services for children, young people and families are operating within the context of rapid change.
The Children and Families Act 2014 included greater protection to vulnerable children, introduced a new system to help children with special educational needs and disabilities, and provided for help for parents to balance work and family life. The Act ensured vital changes to the adoption system could be put into practice, meaning more children who need loving homes are placed faster and that reforms for children in care would be implemented, including giving them the choice to stay with their foster families until their 21st birthday. The Act also required Clinical Commissioning Groups and Local Authorities to set up joint commissioning arrangements for services relevant to children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disability.
The Care Act 2014 ensures that the needs of a child, young carer or adult caring for a child are assessed before, or as the child reaches 18 if there is significant benefit in doing so in order that appropriate services or relevant alternatives can be identified.
In April 2013, local leadership for public health transferred from the NHS to local authorities. As part of this transfer, Local Authorities took on commissioning responsibility for school health nursing services and from 1st October 2015 took on commissioning responsibility for the 0-5 public health nursing service (Health Visiting and Family Nurse Partnership). These services are commissioned collectively across Bristol and South Gloucestershire are delivered as part of the Children’s Community Health Partnership. This service will be re-commissioned during 2016 across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire and also includes Community Paediatrics, Occupational Therapy, Speech and Language Therapy, Physiotherapy, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, specialist community nursing services for children with life-limiting conditions and specialist paediatric GP service.
The approach in South Gloucestershire is to move a young person into adult life, and preferably also into work, in a way that maximises their independence and reduces their long term needs for care and support.
Families are the most important factor in children’s lives and we understand the importance of effective, early help and intervention for families that are vulnerable.
The child, young person and family are at the centre of all decisions and plans. Young people, particularly those who are disadvantaged or vulnerable, or who have additional needs, know about, shape and take part in, positive activities and decision making within their communities.
Most children grow up in their own families but a small number of children need to live away from their families and grow up in a range of alternative care arrangements that include foster care, residential care and supported independent living. These children are described as ‘looked after’ or ‘in care’ and are the responsibility of the local authority. There are around 180 looked after children in South Gloucestershire. We need to ensure that the right support and opportunities are made available to children and young people in care and to their carers. All services and agencies need to actively work together to ensure the right support and opportunities are made available for children, young people and their carers. A good example of where this is happening is the Youth Housing Partnership where local youth housing partners are working together with the Council’s social care and housing teams to shape the pathways and range of support available to those with complex needs. Preparation for the transition out of care or into adulthood is something that happens over an extended period and, with the right ingredients and support, this can be positively managed. Our children in care have told us they want a mixture of practical help and advice with making the right choices and for the planning process to start early. Ensuring our looked after children have access to high quality and timely health assessments and receive the support and services they need to maintain good health is a shared responsibility that falls equally to services (organisations) and carers to ensure that children’s health needs are met and monitored effectively. Our aspiration is that young people leaving care will feel better prepared and supported, though access to good quality accommodation, and training, education and employment opportunities.
Information tells us that Children & young people with special educational needs including those with a disability often face barriers to wellbeing and good future prospects. It is vitally important that children with disabilities and special educational needs have access to opportunities and choices that help them achieve their potential and that those services are more personalised. We need to ensure that the needs of children and young people with additional needs are met and that local services can flex to meet these needs so that fewer are supported by distant services or are placed outside of South Gloucestershire. As part of this we want to ensure that there is good information and advice on the range, availability and accessibility of care and support services for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities aged 0-25, both universal and specialist, across South Gloucestershire, how these services will work together and how there will be more choice and control over what services they receive.
All young people should thrive when leaving school by accessing opportunities for education, employment or training. We want to develop and extend the opportunities for post-16, adult and community learning and to this end we have recently commissioned employment support for people with Learning Difficulties.
South Gloucestershire commission many services with other local authorities in the South West – Bristol, BANES, Wiltshire, Swindon, Gloucestershire, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset which are referred to collectively as ‘sub-regional’. The Children’s Cross Regional Arrangements Group (CCRAG) works across the South West to collectively monitor (inspect) and manage service provision and every individual placement in residential care homes, non-LA-maintained schools and independent fostering arrangements. Where services cannot be sourced from local frameworks South Gloucestershire commissioners would use the CCRAG database to identify other service providers in the first instance.