Watchdog praises council's support for youngsters leaving care

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Suffolk County Council is planning more improvements to its help for young people leaving care. Stock photo - Credit: Getty Images

Further improvements have been pledged for Suffolk’s care leavers service following a glowing report by watchdog inspectors.

Suffolk County Council’s service for children leaving care was inspected by Ofsted in January, with the findings published last month hailing the service’s efforts in helping youngsters fulfil their potential.

On Tuesday, the council’s cabinet agreed to back an outline action plan to improve the service even more.

Actions include:

  • Improved support for emotional well-being and mental health, with a joint review for children in care and care leavers agreed last month;
  • Financial independence skills to be given more consideration for preparing youngsters for independence;
  • Pathway plans to reflect the views of care leavers more;
  • More understanding of youngsters who are NEET (not in employment, education or training) and what support they need.
Cabinet member for children’s services, James Reeder

Cabinet member for children’s services, James Reeder - Credit: Simon Lee Photography

James Reeder, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “The key area for improvements identified by Ofsted include support for emotional wellbeing and mental health of care leavers at all levels of need.

“It was identified that it could be difficult for care leavers to access emotional wellbeing support, that there are gaps in meeting needs if the criteria of meeting specialist support is not reached and that there can be significant waits for specialist support.”

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Mr Reeder said some recent actions will help, such as the launch of the 0-19 crisis intervention service and rollout of mental health teams in schools.

He added: “This focused visit report is an important external review of our care leaving service that recognises our ambition to achieve the best experience and outcomes for our care leavers.”

Suffolk County Councillor Sandy Martin said he was "very concerned" about the Universal Credit statistics 

Councillor Sandy Martin - Credit: Archant

Councillor Sandy Martin from the Labour group said he hoped the action plan will also incorporate staff recruitment to ensure that staff were not forced to take on more than they could cope with, as experienced in other health sectors.

The Ofsted report said the culture is “determined, ambitious and creative,” and added: “Care leavers are helped to successfully transition to independence and to reach their potential.

“Practitioners build trusting relationships with care leavers. They access a wide range of specialist expertise which they use well to provide services to care leavers that are individualised and responsive.

“Many care leavers achieve well, exceeding their own expectations. All are valued and their achievements are celebrated. Persistent efforts are made to reach out to those who are difficult to engage.”