Urgent action needed for children leaving care, says report

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Media captionDan Pitt, who lived with foster parents until he was 18, said children leaving care need continued support

Problems recruiting and retaining experienced social workers in Wales is affecting children in and leaving care, a report has said.

Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales' (CSSIW) findings follow its inspection of how authorities fulfil their "corporate parent" role.

The report said urgent action was needed to give children the emotional and psychological support they need.

Council leaders said the findings would help improve "outcomes for children".

The report was commissioned after high-profile child exploitation cases in England.

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Media captionDan, 22, explains how he found the transition out of care a difficult time after leaving his foster family at the age 18

While inspectors found many examples of good practice, they were concerned about a range of issues including high turnover of social work staff.

They also noted difficulties recruiting foster carers, variable quality of care planning for children in care, and inconsistent and insufficient preparation and support for care leavers as they move to independent living.

'Vulnerable or risky behaviours'

CSSIW's inspection took place between January and May 2014 and included the views and experiences of more than 300 looked-after children and care leavers who exhibited "vulnerable or risky behaviours".

The report concluded that agencies need to "work together more effectively as corporate parents to deliver improved and ambitious outcomes for children in care".

Nigel Brown, assistant chief inspector for CSSIW, said although it was seeing greater stability in the workforce than in the past, retaining experienced social workers was still a problem.

"For some reason we found social workers were not staying working in those frontline teams, dealing with the most complex cases… they were moving on after a short period of time and that meant young people receiving those services were continually seeing different social workers, they didn't have stability in that relationship with their social worker," he said.

The report suggested the Welsh government and councils should question why social work was not viewed as a "more positive career route".

'Loneliness and isolation'

Chris Dunn, development coordinator for Voices from Care, which was involved in the inspection, echoed Mr Brown's comments, saying "a lot of young people say they don't feel supported".

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Media captionMr Brown said children did not have stability with their social worker

He added: "Some of that can come through consistency of services and of workers, and what's needed in general is this communication across the board, learning from what works and what helps young people."

A spokesman from the Welsh Local Government Association said the report recognised the need for cultural change and said its recommendations would be used to help deliver improved and sustainable outcomes for children and young people in Wales.

It is hoped the report will feed into the Welsh government's Social Services and Well-being Act.

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