Inconsistencies evident when young people leave care, inspection finds

Support for young people leaving care could be better managed, a report looking into children’s services at Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council has concluded.

Based on inspections in April and May, the Care Inspectorate found there were ‘inconsistent’ practices being adopted to help young people transition out of care services, as well as a ‘lack of clarity’ from staff about the ‘different roles’ of social workers and personal advisors (PA) in supporting care leavers.

Guidance issued by the Welsh government in 2015 states that young people in care can stay with their families beyond the age of 18, but the Care Inspectorate said the Welsh council had not fully embraced this, with evidence some young people were being encouraged to stay with their foster carers only up to the age of 18.

Some young users had not been introduced to their PAs until around the age of 17, the report said, leaving them feeling ‘unsupported’ and not ready for their transition.

Areas of poor practice within the children’s department had also been exasperated by recruitment problems.

However, the Care Inspectorate said challenges were beginning to be addressed at the local authority through recruitment of more staff and agency cover, leaving it ‘confident’ that senior managers within children’s services were committed to delivering quality services.

Senior leaders had a ‘comprehensive’ knowledge of the pressures of front line practice, enabling them to act quickly to promote improvements, the report said.

A spokesperson from Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council said: ‘We welcome the report from Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW). We were already working on some areas for improvement identified by CIW and these will be incorporated into an action plan to address all areas for improvement.’

Based on an inspection of children’s services at Gwynedd Council in May, while noting that the department had ‘significant strengths’ and a ‘stable workforce’, inspectors said improvements were required in prevention and early intervention, recommending the local authority forged stronger links with community services.