Children with Vulnerabilities or Safeguarding Issues
Wakefield has adopted the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) when assessing children who may have a vulnerability or safeguarding need. It is an inter-agency model which aims to provide children, young people and their families with the most appropriate services to safeguard children and to promote well-being. The CAF is a preventative model of good practice which has been embedded in practice within Wakefield for a number of years.
Within Wakefield the CAF has been embedded in practice for a number of years, the model covers all children and young people, from the provision of universal services through to those who have additional, special needs and those in need of protection. The tool is intended to help practitioners develop a shared understanding of a child’s needs, so they can be met more effectively. This avoids children and families having to re-tell their story – resulting in a better service experience for children, young people and their families with improved outcomes.
As a result of this process vulnerable children and their families are identified and grouped in to statutory work streams.
Children in Need (CiN)
Wakefield has increasing and significantly high rates of CiN; for 2014 this was 1278 per 10,000 children compared to the national average of 680 per 10,000 almost double the national average. There were significant changes to how the authority managed the ‘front-door’ service which encompassed the newly developed Early Help developments, establishing a Multi- Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) and a national reported rise in child welfare referrals to children’s services. Further analysis on the service has demonstrated that there is a higher rate of converting contacts to referrals resulting in more cases being defined as ‘in need’. There is an action plan in place to refine this further.
Child protection plans (CPPs)
The rate of child protection plans per 10,000 children for Wakefield has been higher at 79 per 10,000 compared with the national average of 52. This figure is reduced from the previous year due to more robust application of thresholds.
Looked after children (LAC)
Under the 1989 Children Act, a child is legally defined as ‘looked after’ by a local authority if he or she is subject to a care order or is temporarily classed as looked after on a planned basis for short breaks or respite care . The term ‘looked after children’ (LAC) also applies to a child who is accommodated by the local authority either as a result of a voluntary agreement by their parent, or as a result of a care order being issued by a court of law to safeguard the child. A child ceased to be ‘looked after’, when they reach the age of 18, or 25 if they are disabled and/or are adopted. At the age of 18 or 25, if the young adult is eligible they may transfer to adult social care.
At the 31st March 2014 there were 490 looked after children in Wakefield. The rate of looked after children has increased year on year since 2009/10, from 54 per 10,000 to 72 per 10,000 in 2013/14. Rates have also increased both nationally and regionally over the same time period; however the increase has been much larger in Wakefield. Provisional 2014/15 data for Wakefield indicates the number of looked after children has increased slightly to 498, the rate remains the same at 72 per 10,000.
During 2013/14 the main initial reason for a child become LAC was abuse or neglect, accounting for 63.6% (138) of cases. This is the same initial reason both nationally and regionally.