Improving the outcomes for children in care across West Sussex is a key focus of a new three year plan.
The Child Looked After and Care Leavers Strategy 2018-2021 includes eight key areas and examines what is currently done well and what could be improved.
With a rise in the number of children and young people in West Sussex County Council’s care, one of the challenges tackled in the strategy is how the authority and its partners can work together more effectively to deliver the best care.
Partners committed to this include health, education, police, other councils, and the voluntary and community groups sector.
Stephen Hillier, WSCC’s cabinet member for children and young people, said: “A four year forecast shows that there is likely to be between 700 and 800 children in our care by 2019/20 - this echoes the rise nationally. So it is really important to make sure each and every one of these children and young people get the support they deserve.
“We do a lot of great work already such as supporting care leavers back into education or employment. We also have clear pathways for children at risk of child sexual exploitation but there are also things we would like to do better.”
Increasing access to Higher Education and wellbeing & mental health services are two areas of improvement which have been highlighted in the new strategy document.
The three-year strategy builds on a previous plan and has a number of new areas of focus. This includes a section for unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASCs) which was strengthened further after it was reviewed by the Children in Care Council – a group of young people currently in care in West Sussex.
The young people who make up the council said that UASCs deserve even more support as - although they appreciated that most children in care have experienced trauma - they also realised this trauma was even more extreme for children and young people who have been forced to flee their friends, families and countries.
To support with this, the county council has recently been successful in a bid for targeted funding from the Government’s Department for Communities to take forward this area and meet the ambitions outlined in this strategy.
The eight new themes within the strategy include:
• Happy and healthy
• Education, employment and training
• Placements and residential care
• Planning for permanence
• Staying safe and building resilience
• Transition, leaving care and preparing for adulthood
• Unaccompanied asylum seeking children
• The voice of the child and our commitment as corporate parents