Scotland’s care sector staff have been praised for demonstrating good practice in helping to comfort young people in distress – but improvements still need to made in other key areas to ensure quality of care is the best it can be.
Recent articles have suggested that staff in care services in England do not physically comfort the children they look after, mainly as they are concerned at being accused of inappropriate behaviour.
But a new report from the Care Commission shows that in the overwhelming majority of services in Scotland (96%), staff are good at showing they care about the young people by providing comfort and giving appropriate support when they are upset. Young people also have plenty of opportunity to discuss their fears and concerns with staff.
The Care Commission has published two Bulletins to look at the quality of through-care* and aftercare** and the mental health and wellbeing provided to the 2512 young people looked after in Scotland’s 240 care homes, residential special schools and secure accommodation.
The reports show that there are many examples of good practice in the way young people are being cared for, with staff working well to help young people plan for their moving on from care and in gaining access to relevant health professionals. Nevertheless, improvements need to be made in certain key areas.
The Bulletins were produced after the Care Commission reviewed its inspection, investigation and enforcement activities during 2007-08.
They show that 50% of services were issued with a recommendation or requirement because they were not adequately helping young people to leave care. It also found that 90 recommendations and 44 requirements (involving 56% of services) were made about improving the way young people’s mental health needs were assessed at the point of admission to care.
However, staff are good at promoting mental health for young people once they are in care. They have also closely followed training from the Scottish Institute of Residential Care to ensure any physical contact is appropriate and within acceptable boundaries.
The Care Commission is now recommending that organisations running young people’s care services, and their staff, need to develop and regularly review good policies on through/aftercare, improve staff training and provide better support to young people moving out of care.
Ronnie Hill, Director, Children’s Services Regulation, said it was important to stress that overall, practice in through-care is good in most services in Scotland.
He said: “Research has shown that young people in care, particularly those still in their teens and who move to independent living, are doing less well than their peers. In order to begin to turn this around, young people need to be appropriately supported, not just while they are living in a service but after they have left as well.
“We’re concerned, therefore, that almost half the residential services we monitored needed to improve their ability to help and support young people when they move on.
“In addition, we found wide variations in the assessment of mental health needs of young people at the point of admission and this needs to be addressed. However, in general staff are providing a good service in respect of mental health promotion and in comforting young people when they are distressed. Young people in 94% of services also felt comfortable discussing their worries and concerns with staff.
“These two Bulletins highlight the main lessons on what needs to be done to improve practices in these services and we will be sharing our findings with all people and organisations with an interest in this sector to drive forward the necessary improvements.”
Copies of the bulletins:The throughcare and aftercare provided for children and young people in residential care/ The mental health and wellbeing of children and young people in residential care: Are services meeting the standards? are available from http://www.carecommission.com or on request to the press office.
*Throughcare is the ongoing preparation and support of young people who have been looked after and may soon be making the transition to live more independently.
**Aftercare is the continuing support, planning and guidance for a young person who has left care or a supported living environment.
The Care Commission, established in 2002, regulates just under 15,000 care services who provides care to some 320,000 people. The organisation is committed to regulating for improvement and developing a care sector that adheres to and exceeds the Scottish Government’s National Care Standards.