Looked-After Children Given Voice In Home Checks

A groundbreaking project that gives young people who have been in care a chance to inspect local authority children’s services has been launched at the House of Commons.

The Leading Improvements for Looked After Children (Lilac) project trains young people to inspect care standards in state, charity and private children’s homes.

Inspectors will check in particular how well young people are involved in decision-making over their choice of school and home. The checks are based on standards that the young inspectors have devised, and services that meet an agreed criterion will be awarded the Lilac kite mark for good practice. Pilot projects with York and West Sussex councils found looked-after children were more willing to open up to inspectors who had been in care themselves.

The project was initiated by A National Voice, an organisation for people in care, and is managed by the Fostering Network charity with backing from the Social Care Institute for Excellence and the National Leaving Care Advisory Service.

The Lilac project coordinator, Lucinda Smith, said: “When I was in care the local authority involved me very closely, including in the decision to choose my foster carers. As a result my placement was really successful. However, I know from talking to other people that I was very lucky and that lots of children in care don’t always have such positive experiences. I wanted to help improve the system and believe the Lilac project will do this.”

She added: “The pilot inspections have shown us that care-experienced young people have much to offer in assessing and supporting the development of a service.” Ms Smith said the Lilac project was ready to be rolled out nationally but needed financial support from the government.

The chief executive of the Fostering Network, Robert Tapsfield, said the project was vital because children in care had a right to be involved in decisions directly affecting their life. “Their futures depend on the services they receive and they are the experts on these services. Lilac provides the means for young people in care to have a real influence over the services that affect their lives,” he said.

“With the Lilac project, inspectors will act as advocates and champions of looked-after children – ensuring their views make a difference and change services for the better.”