22 March 2001

Q1 Alison Halford:

Will the Minister for Health and Social Services make a statement about the provision of aftercare for children who are in the care of local authorities in north Wales? (OAQ10456)The Minister for Health and Social Services (Jane Hutt):

The Waterhouse report identified serious deficiencies in the arrangements for young people leaving care in north Wales. The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 tackles these failings. New duties on all local authorities in respect of the care and support of 16 and 17-year-olds who are looked after, and of care leavers, will come into force on 1 October this year. The National Assembly will make regulations and issue guidance in July. Additional resources will be made available to local authorities through the Children First programme to support the new arrangements.

Alison Halford:

That is most helpful. Paragraph 19 of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee’s report on social exclusion mentions the need for mentoring schemes to be undertaken by local authorities. Do you have any plans to encourage local authorities to implement the mentoring schemes as discussed in the report?

Jane Hutt:

That was a useful part of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee’s report. The Waterhouse report identified serious failings in provision, as I said. A leaving-care plan should be prepared for each looked-after child, in consultation with that child. Under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000, young people will have personal advisers to enable them to prepare for, and manage, leaving care up until the age of 21.

Janet Ryder:

As you said, support for children who leave care and move into homes of their own is important. Do you agree that a change in how health indicators are drawn up would put more money into support services: for instance, counting how many sustained home placements an authority made rather than how many home placements are made?

Jane Hutt:

That is an important point. Continuity of care and sustaining those placements is an important part of improving our services for looked-after children. We are reviewing placements and placement choice for looked-after children in partnership with local government. That will be critical for children and young people leaving care in terms of their housing options. Many looked-after children—until the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 is implemented—are vulnerable to homelessness from the age of 16 onwards.

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