Following the Government’s latest advice about how best to respond to Coronavirus, please be advised that all AFA staff are now working from home but can still be reached in all the usual ways for advice and support.
We know that practitioners and agencies are under enormous pressure maintaining critical services for vulnerable children, and that there are particular challenges for children who are looked after and their families and carers. Although we have postponed face-to-face meetings, regular online discussions are taking place in all our forums and consortia so that practitioners have the opportunity to discuss the situation with colleagues and share ideas and solutions that ensure effective care and planning for children is still provided.
The updates section below provides a summary of the latest things that are happening. However clicking on the button below will take you to our dedicated COVID-19 page for all the items we have added to date.
AFA Scotland has developed an online training schedule. We are assuming that the current restrictions will remain in place for some time and have adapted our programme of training and support to work as effectively as possible in an online world. We are also taking the opportunity of sharing some further updates and resources specifically relevant to work with looked after children and those living in kinship, foster and adoptive families. Although the pandemic is still very much with us, it is probably encouraging that these are largely non-Covid related. Thanks again to those who have shared information on the ways services have adapted to the crisis - we will continue to update information and guidance on the AFA Scotland website so do check for the latest versions.
Forthcoming online training events
Specialised Course - £2985.00 + VAT
This post qualifying course is aimed at social workers and managers in children and families' teams, family placement teams as well as other specialist settings across the statutory, voluntary and independent sector. Applicants will require the support of their employer to attend as well as validate their work. It is imperative that sponsoring agencies ensure their nominated students have the motivation, capacity and commitment to complete the course. Please note that due to COVID-19 restrictions, this course will be delivered virtually.
Legal Seminar: £45.00 + VAT per delegate
A virtual seminar to look at how practice and case law surrounding contact have been affected by the pandemic and subsequent lockdown. We are delighted to announce that both Lady Wise and Professor Beth Neil will speak at this event. To find out more and to download an application form, please click here
Workshop: £85.00 + VAT per delegate
Kinship care panels deal with making complex recommendations for children and their families. This online workshop will consider the task of being a minute taker within these meetings where crucial life-changing discussions take place. It will consider the legal context, explore key information required for a good minute, discuss useful kinship research relevant to the role and share good practice with others in a safe setting. For further information and to download a booking form, click here
In Scotland, it takes on average over 2 years between a decision for permanence being made and a legal order being granted. This is too long in the life of a child. This workshop will tackle reasons for drift and delay and importantly what we can do to reduce these. For further information and to download a booking form, click here
Linking to the publication of the new PAR-S template for completing assessments of prospective adopters and permanent carers, this workshop is targeted at workers who have experience in making assessments using the previous form. It will provide an opportunity for practitioners to update their knowledge and skills in conducting the assessment process, as well as becoming familiar with the new PAR-S format and considering how it can be adapted where necessary to suit particular situations. For further information and do download a booking form, please click here
A vital competence for the practitioner is providing a well-written report which can accelerate the progress of a child's plan through Children's Hearings and Court. The quality of the social work report is the single biggest factor in determining the outcome of a Hearing or Court decision. Learn about common pitfalls, complaints from decision makers and poor habits that can obstruct social work planning from moving forward. For further information and to download a booking, clickhere
Spotlight Sessions: £35.00 + VAT per delegate
This session will look at how agencies can work together effectively, understand the legal requirements and good practice policies, manage mutual expectations and provide a consistent and seamless approach to the settling of children into their adoptive families throughout the country. For further information and to download a booking form, click here
The Children (Scotland) Bill 2020 and the Independent Care Review (ICR) highlight the duty of adults to make sure children's voices are heard within the looked after system. This means more than reporting their views; now we must support each child on a continuous basis to participate in, understand and contribute to every decision and plan being made about them. For further information and to download a booking form, click here
Scottish Government information
Care leaver internship opportunities
Applications for the (UK) government's scheme offering internships for care leavers in Scotland as well as the rest of the UK must be submitted by Monday 5th October. If you know of any care leavers who might be interested, the advert can be found at Civil Service Care Leaver Internship with more background information available at https://www.careleaverinternship.co.uk/. Applicants must be between 18 and 30 and have been eligible for continuing support when they left care. Anyone needing additional support and advice through the application and interview process is encouraged to contact their local Fair Start Scotland (FSS) providers.
Care Experienced Children and Young People School Attainment Fund
The Scottish government has published a factsheet on funding school attainment for care experienced children during 2020-21 fund guidance. More than £11.6 million is available to Local Authorities in 2020/21, at a figure of £1,200 per looked after child aged 5-15. All care experienced children and young people aged between 0-26 are eligible.
Revised Children’s social work statistics for year ending 31/7/19
The revised 2018-19 statistics show that the number of Looked After Children in Scotland fell 2% to 14,262 compared to the previous year (as opposed to previously reported fall of 5%) and the number of children on the child protection register rose 3% to 2,599 (compared to the previously reported fall of 3%).
The most recent legal notes from AFA Scotland’s legal consultant Rhona Pollock include information in relation to:
Non-disclosure of address decisions in Children’s Hearings
A recent case in Edinburgh concluded that the test to be used to decide whether a child’s address should be withheld is whether this is in the child’s best interests – rather than the test previously applied, that sharing the information would lead to significant harm. Concerns from some members that not all children’s hearings are taking this judgment into account have been shared and we will pass on any clarification provided by SCRA and CHS on this point.
Foster carer employment rights
A separate tribunal briefing note provides details of a recent tribunal in Glasgow which held that a foster carer should have rights equivalent to other employees. This was a very particular ‘professional’ fostering scheme so it is unclear for now to what extent this will impact on ‘ordinary’ fostering services.
Contact during Covid conference
AFA Scotland’s autumn legal conference focussing on contact issues has been postponed, but two of the key speakers, Lady Wise and Professor Beth Neil have agreed to speak at an online event on Thursday 5thNovember. More information and a booking form available at Contact during Covid booking form.
The Children (Scotland) Bill has completed stage 3 and is expected to become law next year. As well as an increased emphasis on children’s rights, it will impact on specific areas of practice such as decision making in relation to siblings, with the obligation on local authorities to maintain relationships between siblings strengthened by removing the word practicable from the test used. Consultation is underway on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, which aims to incorporate the UNCRC into Scottish law. If passed – this will make it unlawful for a public authority to act in contravention of the UNCRC.
The current research notes from AFA Scotland’s Research Associate, Maggie Grant include a summary of recent publications relating to contact during Covid and in particular the use of digital methods for staying in touch. Other recent research of note includes:
Permanently Progressing? Phase Two: Middle Childhood
We are delighted that a team led by the University of Stirling working with Lancaster University and the Adoption and Fostering Alliance (AFA) Scotland have won a £500,000 award from the Nuffield Foundation and a philanthropic donor, to carry out the next stage of this ground-breaking work intended to improve the lives of children who become "looked-after" within the care system. Many of AFA’s members were involved in different ways in the first phase, between 2014 and 2018, when the team followed the progress of every single child aged five and under who became looked-after in Scotland in the years 2012/2013 - a total of 1,836 children. Phase Two will re-visit the same cohort to explore children’s experiences in middle childhood. To read more please see flyer here.
Impact of Covid related decisions on Children
The Independent Children’s Rights Impact Assessment from the Children’s Commissioner on the Government’s response to Covid 19 in Scotland is now available at CYPCS impact assessment.
Independent Care Review - Evidence Framework
The large-scale review of evidence gathered as part of the Care Review’s work has now been published. This covers a huge range of areas of children and their families’ lived experiences and interactions with the care system. Despite its considerable length, the information has been presented in a way that makes it an easily accessible and highly valuable resource ICR - evidence framework.
Contact - key messages from research
The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory has produced a summary of the key messages from the latest evidence reviews into contact between children in care or adopted and their families. The paper, Contact - key messages, described as an 8-miunte read, sets out six key messages for practitioners highlighting points for reflection and discussion and potential areas for change and improvement.
Research – requests for your assistance
There are particular challenges for researchers getting access to the information that they need in the current situation with practitioners working under great pressure and many of the normal research methods compromised. If you are able to help with any of the following projects, your assistance will be even more valued than usual!
FACE 19 rapid research project – Families and Children’s Experience of Covid-19
Care experienced young people’s use of online spaces
SCRA project on residential care for under-12s
Drawing Together - experience of young unaccompanied asylum seekers
Kinship Care Advice Service Scotland (KCASS)
The new hosting arrangement for KCASS started on 1 September with the majority of the existing staff transferring to the new service run by AFA Scotland and Adoption UK Scotland in collaboration with CPAG. The service is dedicated to improving the supports available to kinship carers and the children they look after with the initial priority on ensuring a smooth transition for those currently receiving support – the advice line number 0808 800 0006 remains unchanged. As the new arrangements become established, AFA Scotland and Adoption UK are keen to fully involve individual kinship carers and kinship groups as well as practitioners, in shaping the future development of the service. Anne Thom, who has been appointed by AFA Scotland as Kinship Consultant, will be working full time with KCASS from 1 October and will be liaising closely with agencies across Scotland once in post.
Adoption Week Scotland
AWS 2020 will run for 16th- 20thNovember. The programme will be largely online, with an increased focus on providing agencies with material that they can use to run campaigns and virtual events in their own areas. As well as the overall aim of raising the profile of adoption, the week will be used to highlight a couple of particularly pressing issues – the placement of siblings and support for those affected by FASD/ early trauma. Further information will be circulated to agencies within the next 2 weeks.
New fire regulations to impact on carer households
New Scottish regulations stipulate that by 1st February 2021 every home in Scotland must meet revised Tolerable Standards by having smoke alarms in every circulation space, smoke alarms in the rooms most frequently used, a heat alarm in the kitchen and a Carbon Monoxide alarm where there is a fuel burning appliance or flue. There is an assumption that enforcement action with private households will be limited, but that where agencies are approving carers the standards will need to be met - with obvious implications for fostering, adoption and kinship placements. Seemingly current estimates are that it is likely to cost about £200 per household to make the required adaptations.
Coram BAAF Covid information and resources updated
The wide range of guidance produced by CoramBAAF to help the family placement sector respond to the coronavirus pandemic has been revised and updated – the latest versions are available at CoramBAAF guidance.
Please continue to share examples of emerging practice that we can pass on and let us know if there are other ways we can support your work.
The AFA Scotland Team
The Adoption and Fostering Alliance (AFA) Scotland is an independent, charitable organisation dedicated to improving outcomes for children in care by providing support to all those working in the field of adoption, fostering and the care of looked after children. AFA Scotland was established following the demise of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) in July 2015 and continues to provide services in collaboration with CoramBAAF.
An emphasis is placed in all AFA Scotland’s work on the need for a multi-disciplinary approach that enables social workers, lawyers, health professionals and educators to work effectively across professional boundaries in order to meet the needs of children and their carers. As a membership organisation, AFA Scotland helps to give agencies and individual members a national and regional voice and contributes to the development of policy and practice at a local and national level.
The team provides direct services to agencies, including chairing adoption panels, appeal panels, disruption meetings, and running case consultation sessions. An emphasis is placed in all AFA Scotland’s work on the need for a multi-disciplinary approach that enables social workers, lawyers, health professionals and educators to work effectively across professional boundaries in order to meet the needs of children and their carers. As a membership organisation, AFA Scotland helps to give agencies and individual members a national and regional voice and contributes to the development of policy and practice at a local and national level.
In addition we have a comprehensive selection of 1 and 2 day workshops which are highlighted below.
Membership makes sense as it opens up a range of benefits. This includes member only forums and spotlight sessions, access to our research papers and discounts from our training, conferences and seminars.
AFA Scotland’s multi-disciplinary team has a wealth of experience and up-to-date expertise in adoption and fostering practice. We deliver a wide range of training, consultancy and workshops to assist professionals develop the knowledge and skills they require when working in this specialist area.
Our conferences bring everything together for additional insight into whats going on in the field of adoption and fostering.
We have over 20 established training workshops that cover the full spectrum of the skills and knowledge required in the Adoption and Fostering environment.
These include course such as:
- CPO to POA - A childs journey towards permanance
- Role of the agency decison maker
- Overview of child care law in Scotland
- Whose minute is it anyway?
- Assessing foster carers and adopters
- When placements disrupt in adoption and fostering
- Kinship care, understanding the law and research for kinship carers
- Be court ready, keeping knowledge and skills current
- ....and many more