Discharge of Care/SGO:
Blackpool Council

January – June 2020

“As soon as Innovate got the processes in place, our team just gelled, and we started to see a
steady flow of children being discharged from care.”
Dawn Goodall, Head of Service for Legal, Blackpool Council

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250

250 single assessments carried out

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86

86 children exited care

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238

238 children allocated

Innovate Services, discharge of care, children in care, foster care, children's services, case study, Blackpool Council

Blackpool Council's need

In January 2020, Blackpool Council were experiencing a high number of children in care. Many of those children and young people, however, had been settled for a long time and no longer needed to be a looked after child.

Although Blackpool Council and partner agencies recognised this, they were stuck. They were unable to get to a place where those children could be easily discharged from social care.

The children were languishing within the care system when they needed the sense of closure that comes with having a place of permanence.

In Blackpool Council Head of Service for Legal, Dawn Goodall’s words:

“The children were living in limbo with a complex network of teams and elongated processes standing in the way. We needed help and Innovate Services proposed a workable solution.”

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Innovate Services’ solution

In Dawn’s words, “Blackpool Council’s partnership with Innovate Services has enabled us to take a fresh look at our discharge of care provision.”

From the outset, our Innovate Services SGO team held a mobilisation meeting with key individuals, including local authority heads of service, legal teams and CAFCASS. Together, processes and timelines were agreed upon.

Our first task was to make sure that all identified children had an updated assessment of their circumstances.

At the same time, we reviewed Blackpool’s existing discharge processes. This was to ensure that the right support was in place to progress SGOs and that each carer received a tailormade package of support to provide their child with a permanent place. Somewhere the child could call their ‘forever’ home.

Reflecting on the benefits to each child, our SGO project-lead Claire Nelson, says:

“Children subject to a care order, were supported to remain at living safely at home safely, free from a care order and the burden that this brings.”

Innovate Services, discharge of care, children in care, foster care, children's services, case study, Blackpool Council

Working together towards a common goal

Our team took a holistic approach, working closely with the Judiciary, legal services, IRO service and CAFCASS. The aim was to streamline the process by making sure all partners were working together to progress the recommended plans.

Having buy-in from Blackpool Council and partner agencies was crucial. As a team, it was important that we were flexible and that no ideas or solutions were off the table.

Commenting on the strength of the collaboration, Dawn mentions:

“The Innovate team was incredibly focused and alive to the fact that the project needed driving forward, and that everyone involved across Blackpool had to focus their efforts on the same direction for real change.”

Adding to Dawn’s observations, Claire Nelson, adds:

“A good example of collaboration is how closely we worked with the IRO service to plan and organise CLA reviews. This was to fit in with the assessment timescales, allowing each plan to be quickly agreed.

“Additionally, we developed a Regulation 15 process. This was to ensure that there was a fair opportunity for every SGO application to obtain legal advice and be supported in the process. This fulfilled the requirements of the legislation and guidance around this.

“At the same time, the quality of the children and family assessments, social worker evidence and SGO assessments were also developed. We also co-worked with some children to influence practice and improve quality moving forward.”

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Setting the blueprint for discharge of care

Our SGO team carried out 250 individual assessments, and of the 238 children allocated, 86 exited care. This is an achievement that would have been impossible with the pre-existing processes.

Speaking about the impact of the project on children and their carers, Claire Nelson says:

“We were able to achieve permanency for children and their carers so that they enjoy a life that is more reflective of an ordinary daily lived experience. Children reported feeling secure and having a sense of foreverness. Likewise, each carer is now free to make autonomous decisions for their child within a family environment.”

Resultingly, Blackpool Council saw a reduction in the number of Children Looked After (CLA), which directly translated into cost-savings and additional capacity.

Today, there remains a heightened awareness of the importance of SGOs and regular care order reviews. All partners are now working together to continually improve the discharge of care provision.

In fact, the benefits were realised very early on, as Dawn mentions:

“As soon as Innovate got the processes in place, our team just gelled, and we started to see a steady flow of children being discharged from care.

“Innovate gave us the opportunity to step away from the processes we had. Claire Nelson and the team guided us through what could be changed and streamlined to keep the momentum.

“The legacy of our collaboration with Innovate is the structure we now have. We have moved from one that was in disarray to a team that is focused on finding Blackpool’s safeguarded children a place of permanence.”

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Service Auditing

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  • Children in Need
  • Duty & Assessment
  • Edge of Care
  • High-Cost Placements
  • MASH
  • Discharge of Care
  • Safeguarding
  • Children with Disabilities
  • Service Auditing

Want to know more?

Contact us to find out more about our discharge of care programme.

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