The Children’s Commissioner has a particular responsibility to listen to and represent the views of looked-after children and children living away from home. Help at Hand is her national advice line for children and young people who are in care, leaving care, living away from home or working with children’s services.
Enquiries to Help at Hand have increased by more than 50% over the past year, and in 2017-18 we will extend the hours of the service to ensure that more children and young people can get the help and advice they need. With a new data gathering and analysis framework, the advice line will be better able to report on issues, trends, impacts and outcomes. This live data regarding children’s experiences will help drive change in local authority practice through the Commissioner’s direct correspondence with Directors of Children’s Services, and via a new link with Ofsted.
One of the major concerns the Commissioner regularly hears about for children in care is stability; of placement, of school, of social worker. The Stability Index is a new intervention by the Children’s Commissioner to shine a light on the children ‘pinged’ between social workers, placements and schools. By monitoring a combined measure of stability for the first time, we will assess trends, and work with local authorities and others to support improvements to looked after children’s lives.
Care Monitor brings together the best data from across the country to improve knowledge and understanding about the views, experiences and perspectives of looked after children and children leaving care, particularly the voices of children less often heard. It will, in time, enable us to introduce elements of personal experience and identity into the Stability Index so that the Index captures children’s own sense of belonging and relationships, as well as administrative measures of their care experience.