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Making a Difference: Achieving good outcomes for children, young people and their families in Wales

This report sets out the findings of the review of services for children in need in Wales undertaken by CSSIW in 2012-13.

In the last fourteen years the number of looked after children in Wales has risen from 2991 in 1998 to 5725 in 2012. This growth presents a number of challenges and dilemmas, not least to delivering sustainable social services against a backdrop of diminishing resources. During the same period in England the numbers of looked after children rose from 53,300 to 67,050. In 1998 the rate per 10,000 population under 18 years was 45 in Wales and 47 in England. By comparison in 2012 in Wales it has risen to 91 compared to 59 per 10,000 in England. The Local Authority rate varies across Wales from 54 to167 per 10,000 population. Despite a number of initiatives over the last decade there has continued to be an increase in the rate of looked after children in Wales.

The Children in Need Census demonstrates that children in need have poorer outcomes compared to both the general population and children looked after. Educational attainment for children in need was lower than children in the general population and looked after children at every key stage of measurement. Similarly when making comparisons in relation to health surveillance checks, dental checks and immunisations, outcomes were poorer for children in need.

The Census reported that there were 20,240 children in need at 31 March 2012, which was a rate of 320 per 10,000 children aged under 18 years. Of these children, more than a third (36 per cent) of referrals were from local authority departments and a further 29 per cent from the police and primary or community health services, a quarter (25 per cent) of children in need had a disability. Parental substance or alcohol misuse and domestic abuse were the most frequently recorded parenting capacity factors. With between 45,000 to 50,000 children being referred to social services each year (of whom approximately half meet the threshold for assessment), the continuing rise in the numbers of looked after children and poor outcomes for children in need, the challenges facing the sustainable delivery of social services in Wales are considerable. Critical to the future sustainability of services is whether current policies and initiatives are having the desired impact of improving outcomes for children, and support families to care for their children whilst reducing the number of children who need to be looked after.

Set against this backdrop CSSIW undertook this review with the aim of seeking to identify what makes a difference in terms of working with children in need and their families. This review focussed on the quality of social work intervention and practice with children and their families and examines the interventions and services that are successful in achieving good outcomes for children and their families.