Care Leavers Ruling

Posted on August 5th, 2010

The culture within many Leaving Care Teams, if not all, sees a young person’s case move from being allocated to a qualified Social Worker to an unqualified Personal Advisor when a young person turns 18.  This situation is usually dictated by economics; the cost of a Social Worker is more than that of a Personal Advisor and restrictions in budgets have seen the loss of Social Work posts in Leaving Care Teams.   A consequence of this is Pathway Plans being reviewed by Personal Advisors.   Personal Advisors do build positive relationships with the young people allocated to them; however, many are untrained in pathway planning and are left to deal with complicated case loads.   When a young person turns 18 it does not necessarily mean that their needs diminish; in many cases the needs of young people increase as they adapt to living independently in the community on limited budgets, often with little prospect of securing employment.  In addition young female care leavers are at a higher risk than their peers living within birth families, of becoming pregnant, leaving the Personal Advisor in a position where they may be the only professional aware of the young person’s ability to safely parent.  In my experience referrals to safeguarding teams from Personal Advisors are not treated with the same credibility as concerns raised by a Social Worker.

Mr Justice Parker has recently made a High Court ruling that all leaving care Pathway Plans must be reviewed by Social Workers.  Action from this ruling should decrease the likelihood pf Personal Advisors being left to manage difficult cases, passed to them on the premise that the young person has reached the age of 18.   Currently Social Workers in Leaving Care Teams are allocated cases of young people who required Child Looked After reviews to be completed and other mandatory tasks.   Justice Parker’s ruling indicates that Social Workers must work together with Personal Advisors to complete Pathway Plans; consequently Social Workers will need to trust the information provided by the Personal Advisor and given the blame culture in which Social Work in general functions, this is an activity not without its risks to a Social Worker’s career.

I welcome Justice Parker’s judgement as it raises the profile of care leavers and offers potential to improve the support offered to young people at a time of life when it is increasingly likely that they will experience some form of crisis whilst going through significant transitions.   However, I acknowledge that Justice Parker’s judgement will place pressure on Leaving Care Teams already facing budget cuts and his ruling will mean additional tasks for qualified Social Workers.

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