Councils across the country are urged in a national report to adopt North Yorkshire County Council’s ground-breaking programme for looked-after children and young people.
Sir Martin Narey, former director general of prisons for England and Wales and former chief executive of Barnardos has said that the programme called ‘No Wrong Door’ stands out for its ‘ambition, innovation and high expectation’ in the support it offers to the most troubled and challenging young people.
His recommendation is featured in a national report called Residential Care in England published this month and which he was commissioned to write by former Prime Minister David Cameron.
No Wrong Door is designed to break the traditional cycle of young people who enter the care system in their teenage years following a path of multiple fostering placements, insufficiently planned periods in residential care and placement breakdown.
Such a cycle runs the risk of young people becoming increasingly vulnerable and developing offending behaviour; substance misuse; disengagement from education; high risk-taking behaviour and frequently going missing.
No Wrong Door replaces traditional council-run care homes with hubs which combines residential care with fostering. North Yorkshire has created two hubs, one in Scarborough to serve the east of the county while one in Harrogate serves the west.
Each hub has a dedicated team trained to focus on solutions rather than problems. Each team includes a life coach, who is a clinical psychologist, a supportive police role and a speech and communications therapist. It also includes residential care home beds; emergency residential beds; community foster family placements; supported accommodation and supported lodgings and outreach support.
Sir Martin has visited the Scarborough hub with North Yorkshire police commissioner Julia Mulligan following the publication of his report which sets out 34 recommendations for improving residential care for looked-after children and young people.
In his report he also gives personal thanks to Martin Kelly, North Yorkshire’s head of children and young people resources, who helped to create No Wrong Door and who offered “challenge and advice” to the report.
Sir Martin said: “No Wrong Door is hugely ambitious for the children and young people who come into the care system. It dismantles the binary divide between fostering and residential care to offer the best of both.
“It is the sense of ambition and high expectations which this very clever and sophisticated programme has for the most challenging children which is so special,” said Sir Martin. “The flexibility of the provision is very effective so that young people can move in a planned way and back and forth between foster care and residential care.
“Foster carers can be overwhelmed by the difficulties of caring for children who have been damaged, often by a great deal of abuse and neglect. I have met lots of children who have been through 10 or 12 foster placements and end up in residential care when it’s too late. But under this model, foster carers are members of a team with ready access to mental health support and a language therapist for the children and young people in their care. They are not on their own.”
Sir Martin said that No Wrong Door would attract a lot of interest from other authorities because of its proven effectiveness. It has been rated outstanding by Ofsted. But it also delivers an improvement in services while saving money – avoiding the high costs of placement breakdown and preventing young people’s descent into the very expensive criminal justice system.
The North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan, has agreed permanent funding for two police liaison officers for No Wrong Door. In addition she has agreed to funding jointly with the county council for 12 months an intelligence analyst to track the activity and safety of young people in the care system.
She said: “We have been evaluating the effectiveness of No Wrong Door and seen over time how good this project is. We can see the clear benefits for children and for the police service in preventing further offending, minimising problems for the wider community and keeping children safe.
“The most impressive and important thing is the improvement in life chances for these very vulnerable young people.
“As part of our wider prevention programme we have set up a youth commission to find out from young people what they want from the police service and what they think can prevent young people heading into the criminal justice system. No Wrong Door is a model which is working for our most troubled and vulnerable young people and therefore there are lessons to be learned.”
The Department for Education has already backed Martin Narey’s evaluation of No Wrong Door. In its own report called ‘Putting Children First: delivering our vision for excellent children’s social care’, also published this month, it describes No Wrong Door as an “excellent” example of how a residential care model can be used “in a more dynamic and creative way to support children”.
The DfE stated its intention in the report to roll out the No Wrong Door model to other authorities and last week Sam Olsen, the DfE’s Deputy Director for Children’s Social Care Innovation and Reform visited the County Council to meet the No Wrong Door team and discuss next steps.
North Yorkshire was the first authority in the country to attract over £2m from the Department for Education’s Innovations Programme for rethinking care for adolescents.
The Government funding was more than matched by over £4 million from the authority’s own resources for looked-after children, to develop the No Wrong Door radical initiative over three years.
According to Ofsted, which judged the Scarborough hub in Stepney Road to be outstanding, young people “make exceptional progress” because their needs are “readily identified and they benefit from tailored support to address these straightaway.”
Sir Martin said: “This is the best Ofsted report I have ever read about a children’s home. The No Wrong Door team is uncompromising in its belief that through the right support even the most challenging children can move forward.”
“We are extremely proud of what we are achieving through No Wrong Door,” said County Councillor Janet Sanderson, Executive Member for the Children and Young People’s Service, “and we are thrilled that the vision and hard work of our highly committed staff has been recognised at a national level. North Yorkshire’s priority is to improve the life chances of our most vulnerable young people and we hope now that other authorities will follow this lead.”