North Yorkshire County Council is one of only seven local authorities selected to trial a new service to help looked-after children and young people.
The scheme, called Lifelong Links, aims to bring children and young people together with estranged or previously unknown relatives who can be a supportive part of their lives.
Launched this summer, Lifelong Links will work with children and young people using face-to-face and online techniques to identify and find relatives estranged from or not yet known to a child. The searches might also locate other supportive adults (for example, former foster carers) who might play an on-going part in a young person’s life when they leave care.
The County Council is the only authority in the north of England taking part in the pilot, which is funded by an innovation grant from central government. It is aimed at under 16-year-olds who have been in care for less than three years and for whom there is no plan to live within their family or be adopted when they leave care. The aim is to improve outcomes for children in care and stems from a “family finding” model originating in the United States.
The service aims to identify and engage relatives and other supportive adults who are connected to a child in care and are willing to make a life-long commitment to that child. A professional will search for family members and other adults who care about the child. These people are then brought together in a family group conference to make a support plan with and for the young person.
County Councillor Janet Sanderson, Executive Member for Children’s Services, said: “The Lifelong Links pilot could have implications nationally for future best practice. It is part of a prestigious research project, restricted to a relatively small but important population of children and young people in care in North Yorkshire.
“The authority was instrumental in putting together the original bid for the innovation grant with the Family Rights Group, and has been invited to carry out the pilot because of our impressive track record in children’s social care services.”
Achievements in recent years include the County Council’s selection as a partner in practice by the government to share best practice in children’s services with other authorities. Its No Wrong Door programme, which supports young people in or on the edge of the care system, has been recognised nationally. And on the coast, the government’s North Yorkshire Coast Opportunity Area builds on pioneering work by the County Council through its Scarborough Pledge initiative to bring about a community-wide shift in attitude about expectations for the area’s young people.
Stuart Carlton, Corporate Director for Children and Young People’s Services, said: “Lifelong Links presents another opportunity for the authority to further its ambition to ensure that every child in North Yorkshire has the best possible start in life. We are excited once again to be at the forefront of work to increase support for young people, particularly as we set out our ambitions for the coming years in our new children and young people’s plan, Young and Yorkshire 2.”