Concerns raised over vulnerability of looked after children in Flintshire leaving care
A councillor has sought assurances efforts are made so young people are not left vulnerable to becoming involved with drug gangs once they leave care.
A joint-meeting of Flintshire Council’s education, and social and health care scrutiny committees received an update on how the authority supports looked after children.
The council supports an average of 250 looked after children at any one point in time.
It is looking to refresh its Corporate Parenting Strategy with an action plan for service support and produce plans to further expand in-house residential care and fostering to support children locally.
The committee backed these plans and praised the work of the department but Hope Cllr Gladys Healey (Lab) sought assurances that once looked after children become adults with their own accommodation, they are not left vulnerable to those looking to exploit them.
She said: “I am just worried, as you know in the society of today there are a lot of drugs out there, they (drug gangs) watch who they can pick on and they do pick on the most vulnerable people.
“They could so easily be sucked into this culture of drugs, selling drugs to make a quick buck.
“I am just worried what happens. Is there a way we look after them? It also depends where we accommodate these young people, because let’s face it there are areas where it’s rife with drug taking.”
The council’s children’s services manager Craig Macleod explained that efforts are made to create a pathway for children ahead of leaving care at 18, to gravitate towards education and employment.
There are also options for those in foster care to stay in their placement for longer if possible.
He said: “Not all children leave their placements at 18. If a young person is in foster placement we have a scheme called ‘When I’m ready’ which enables them to continue to stay in that foster placement and they move from the placement when they are ready.
“It is a reduced payment, but there needs to be a payment to a foster carer if they’re willing and able to continue to provide a home for that young person.
“If children are in education they will stay all the way through to their 19th birthday.”
Mr Macleod added: “It is a reality that a lot of children who are in care do gravitate back home and to family at 18.
“Sometimes that’s a positive thing in terms of reunification but sometimes it’s not, but not all children will leave at 18 and go into their accommodation.
“At 16 all children have a pathway plan, about what is going to happen to them when they become 18. At 18 those adults have an absolute right to live where they want to.”
Mr Macleod added that staff work hard to steer looked after children away from a certain lifestyle, but reminded councillors that once they are 18 they are adults.
By Rory Sheehan – Local Democracy Reporter (more here). Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com