Ingram announces new centre to improve care services
A new centre of excellence to improve the lives of children in care is to be established in Scotland, children’s minister Adam Ingram has announced. The centre, to be based at the University of Strathclyde, will provide specialist training for those working with such children, support colleges and universities in helping them into ongoing education, and consult with children on how services should be shaped.
The announcement comes as new “looked-after children” Scottish Government statistics were published, showing a 4% increase from March 2009 to July 2010, with 15,892 children now being looked after by local authorities.
These include children in community settings such as those living at home or with foster carers, as well as those in residential care.
Mr Ingram said this month: “The figures show that while more children are becoming looked after, this is happening earlier in their lives. This shows our policies to provide the earliest possible support to children and families are starting to have an impact.
“As looked after children are among the most vulnerable members of our society we must continue to do what we can to improve their lives and life opportunities. The creation of a new centre for excellence will help us drive forward improvements in care planning and corporate parenting with those who work with looked after children and the children themselves.
“This centre builds on a range of other initiatives. Earlier this week, we announced new nutritional guidelines to improve the health of children in residential and, over the past year, we have put in place new measures to improve educational attainment through the Additional Support for Learning Act and taken action to improve training and employment opportunities through our 16+ Learning Choices initiative.
“Finally, it’s important to recognise that while the number of looked after children has risen, this appears to be due to more young people being looked after for longer. This can mean that they are continuing to be looked after without a clear path to a permanent placement. We have been exploring how best we tackle these issues and will be announcing action on this in the coming weeks.”
Romy Langeland, independent chair of the Scottish Institute for Residential Child Care which will be transformed into the new centre of excellence, said:
“We recognise that there is already a great deal of important work being undertaken to improve a child’s experiences throughout their journey within the care system. We welcome this opportunity to come alongside partners and work together to ensure that we maximise the opportunities and outcomes for looked after children.”
The new centre of excellence will be based at the University of Strathclyde and created by changing the role and remit of the Scottish Institute for Residential Child Care (SIRCC), set up by the Scottish Government in 2000 to improve outcomes for children and young people in residential care.
SIRCC ( http://www.sircc.org.uk/about) is a partnership between the University of Strathclyde, Robert Gordon University, Langside College and Who Cares? Scotland. The focus of its activities during the last 10 years has been the development of the workforce.
This will now be extended, through a phased transition, to cover support and training for everyone working with looked after children and care leavers, regardless of where that care is provided, including teachers, healthcare workers and kinship carers. The change in role reflects the fact that that looked after children often move between care settings and that these services need to be better integrated and that there is also a long history of the adoption, fostering and residential care sectors working together.
The centre will work collaboratively with other organisations and its role will include:
- offering specialist training and support to anyone working with looked after children
- working with the further and higher education sectors to ensure appropriate qualifications are available to relevant staff
- retaining a consultative role with young people on practice improvement
- providing ad hoc consultancy advice to help relevant groups put in place, monitor and evaluate projects
- acting as a central point of contact for those seeking information/advice, including the provision of a web-based resource
- running seminars and conferences to promote good practice and raise awareness of current thinking and developments in the area of looked after children, as well as helping to develop good practice through a research programme covering domestic ad international practice
- working with the sector to reduce the stigma associated with being a looked after child