Nottingham City Safeguarding Children’s Board Procedures Manual
Nottingham City Safeguarding Children’s Board Procedures Manual Nottingham City Safeguarding Children’s Board Procedures Manual

5.9.5 Personal Advisor - Protocol

AMENDMENT

In August 2015, the term 15 plus service was changed to Leaving Care Service in Section 6, Supervision and Training.


Contents

  1. Scope of this Policy
  2. Legal Documents
  3. General Points
  4. Knowledge and Skills
  5. The Function of the Personal Adviser
  6. Supervision and Training


1. Scope of this Policy

Once a young person ceases to be looked after and they are a relevant child, or once they reach legal adulthood at age 18 and are a former relevant child, then the local authority will no longer be required to provide them with a social worker to plan and co-ordinate their care.

PA also applies to eligible child. Therefore potentially from age 16 to 21(24).

The local authority must, however, appoint a PA to support them. The PA will act as the focal point to ensure that care leavers are provided with the right kind of personal support. All care leavers should be aware of who their PA is and how to contact them, so that throughout their transition to adulthood they are able to rely on consistent support from their own key professional.

There is no prescribed professional or occupational qualification determining which professional should carry out the PA function for any individual care leaver. However a PA should normally possess or be working towards a professional qualification.

It will be good practice, where possible, for the young person to maintain the same PA from the age of 16 that was allocated to their support when they were an eligible or a relevant child. Any transfer of case holding or support should take place in a planned and managed way; for example, the transfer of support could be timed to coincide with a scheduled review of the young person's pathway plan, or when the young person becomes more settled following a change of education/training or accommodation.


2. Legal Documents

Care Standards Act 2000
Care Leavers Regulations
The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations
Care Planning guidance Doc - Vol 2


3. General Points

Legislation does not lay down any formal qualifications, but guidance states:

Anyone appointed to carry out the PA function should possess a sound demonstrable understanding of human growth and development (in particular being competent in understanding the insecurities faced by looked after children as they make their transition to adulthood). They will also need to have a working knowledge of the range of issues that care leavers might expect to face as they make their transition to adulthood and the legal framework affecting care leavers.

They should also be capable of understanding and acting upon relevant legislation concerned with housing and homelessness.

In recruiting PAs, it will be ideal if the range of advisers is sufficiently wide to provide young people with a choice, bearing in mind considerations of gender and ethnicity. The responsible authority will always need to give careful consideration to any preferences expressed by the young person about who might fulfil their PA function. However, in the final analysis, the local authority must be satisfied in every case that the person acting as a young person's PA has the requisite skills and the necessary availability. For example, local authorities should ensure that a PA is familiar with a young person's way of communicating if they are disabled, e.g. use Makaton or other augmentative communication methods, or has access to appropriate training, interpretation or facilitation. The final decision as to who will be suitable to act as a PA for an individual care leaver rests with the responsible authority.

The PA will also participate in the assessment, preparation and review of pathway plan. The PA should take a negotiating role on behalf of the young person, essentially to act as an advocate or representative of young person in their dealings with the Local Authority. Whilst there are no difficulties in a PA being an employee of the LA, the PA cannot play a part in writing the assessment process of pathway plan.

The PA will be the key professional responsible for co-ordinating each care leaver's support. The PA will need to be able to establish a rapport with care leavers and take their views into account when taking forward plans for their support.

If the young person does not engage with the PA, there will be a need to consider offering the young person another PA. If the LA is hindered in any way in completing the pathway plan by lack of engagement from the young person, efforts should be clearly recorded and fully detailed on case records.

Personal adviser to 25

Young people previously eligible for leaving care services resuming programmes of education or training after the age of 21 are entitled to continuing support from a PA allocated from their responsible authority.

Care leavers under the age of 25 who wish to take up a programme of education or training will have an entitlement to resume support from a personal adviser (PA) appointed by the local authority previously responsible for providing their leaving care support.


4. Knowledge and Skills

In assessing whether or not an individual possesses the right knowledge and skills to be effective as a PA for a care leaver, the local authority will need to establish that they are able to work within the legal and leaving care policy framework and that they demonstrate the necessary personal qualities, so that, they are capable of becoming an effective professional with the ability to advocate for the young person so they are supported to reach their potential.

There will also be circumstances where a professional's relationship with an individual young person may mean that they will be best placed to act as their PA, even though they may not possess the usual skill-set - e.g. in cases where a young person's former foster carer takes on this function.

This may have to be adapted or enhanced to take into account any wider statutory frameworks affecting groups of care leavers with more specific needs - e.g. disabled young people or unaccompanied asylum seekers.

Regulations outlines the skills and knowledge that an experienced PA might usually be expected to demonstrate. They are:

  • Human growth and development;
  • Legal Awareness;
  • Assessment skills;
  • Communication with young people and their families;
  • Health needs;
  • Valuing diversity;
  • Economic and social need;
  • Intervention skills.

It will be important that the PA is able to form a working relationship with the young person to carry forward their pathway plan. Young people will have views about the kinds of qualities that they will expect from their PA and these should be taken into account when matching an individual care leaver to a PA.


5. The Function of the Personal Adviser

Where a young person has developed a trusting relationship with a carer then it should be possible for the local authority to delegate aspects of the PA function to them, as it will clearly be in young people's interests to build on the positive relationships that they have already established.

Relevant and Former Relevant

A personal adviser has the following functions in relation to the relevant child or former relevant child for whom they are appointed-

  • To provide advice (including practical advice) and support, where applicable, to participate in the assessment and the preparation of the pathway plan;
  • To participate in reviews of the pathway plan;
  • To liaise with the responsible authority in the implementation of the pathway plan;
  • To co-ordinate the provision of services, and to take reasonable steps;
  • To ensure that the child makes use of such services and that they are appropriate to the child's needs;
  • To remain informed about the relevant child's or former relevant child's progress and wellbeing;
  • To keep a written record of contacts with, and of services provided to, the relevant or former relevant child.

In addition, where accommodation is provided to a relevant child or former relevant child by the responsible authority under section 23B or section 24B, the personal adviser must visit the relevant child or former relevant child at that accommodation-

Eligible

The 2010 Regulations set out details of the functions of the personal adviser for an eligible child The personal adviser must:

  • Provide the young person with advice and support (this will include direct practical help to prepare them for the time when they move or cease to be looked after and also emotional support)'
  • Participate in reviews of the pathway plan which for an eligible child will include the care plan
  • Liaise with the responsible authority about the provision of services (this function may be carried out by the personal adviser working as a member of a social work or a specialist leaving care team; it will also involve liaising and negotiating with the full range of services that make up the local authority's services, e.g. education and housing services);
  • Co-ordinate the provision of services, ensuring that these are responsive to the young person's needs and that s/he is able to access and make constructive use of them;
  • Remain informed about the young person's progress and keep in touch with him/her - visiting at no less than the statutory intervals; and maintain a record of their involvement with the young person, monitoring the effectiveness of services in preparing the young person for a time when s/he will move to greater independence or when s/he ceases to be looked after.

It is important to note that, for a relevant child who has not reached legal adulthood, respecting a young person's wishes and feelings does not mean automatically agreeing with all of their views. The PA must make their own professional judgment about the child's best interests. Both for relevant, but also for former relevant children, where young people's wishes and feelings appear to be in conflict with the PA's informed professional view of their best interests, then the PA will have a responsibility to negotiate with the young person about a reasonable way forward.

Every PA needs to understand the arrangements for liaising with the responsible authority so that the pathway plan for the young people they support is implemented. The responsible authority must agree arrangements with the PA (or where the adviser is not an employee of the authority, with their agency) for their supervision and support.

In carrying forward, or participating in drawing up the pathway plan the PA will need to have identified the range of services necessary to respond to each dimension of the young person's needs. The PA role will be to coordinate how services are provided for the young person, developing constructive professional relationships, in order that all agencies recognise their important investment in enabling the young person to succeed as they make their transition to adulthood.

Care Leavers Regulations requires that when a care leaver moves to new accommodation, the PA must see them at that accommodation within 7 days of the move. Subsequently they must see the care leaver at the point at which the pathway plan will be first reviewed - namely after 28 days - and then they must visit the care leavers at no less than 2 monthly intervals. It is important to understand that these are minimum requirements. Where care leavers develop problems as they assume the responsibilities of adulthood they should expect, and will require, much more frequent personal contact with their PA.

Visits should often be scheduled to take place at the accommodation where the young person lives. On each occasion the PA must consider whether this accommodation continues to be suitable for the young person. The PA will need to observe the general state of the property and check how well the care leaver is managing in their accommodation, including that they are managing their financial commitments for rent, utilities etc. Where a young person is living in semi-independent accommodation linked to the provision of housing related support, the PA should monitor how well the accommodation, with its related support, is meeting the young person's needs. They should liaise closely with the young person and their housing support worker to identify and resolve any problems.

The PA will be responsible for keeping an up to date record of their involvement with each care leaver and therefore of the responsible authority's involvement with the young person. A note should be made on each visit and on other contacts with the young person. Contact with other agencies must also be recorded. The case record can be used to establish that the plan continues to set out an effective means of supporting the young person.


6. Supervision and Training

Supervision of Personal Advisers will be undertaken by managers and staff within the Leaving Care Service. Supervision will fulfil a number of functions:

  • To ensure that the PA is offering each young person on their caseload the support required, as specified in their pathway plans;
  • To develop the PA's skills and competencies and enable them to reflect on their practice, so that they improve and refine their skills and become more effective in delivering their tasks; and identify their training and development needs.

Supervisors should be responsible for making sure that case records are in order and up to date and that PAs' recording conforms to agency standards. Apart from regular supervision meetings with the PA, supervisors should be appraising each PA's performance by inviting regular feedback from other agencies and, of course, from young people themselves.

End