Nice launches health and wellbeing standards for children in care

By Lauren Higgs

| 15 August 2012

Children and young people in care are to benefit from new quality standards designed to promote their health and wellbeing.

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The standards say care leavers should be offered continued access to support. Image: Malcolm Case-Green

The standards, which are currently in draft form, set out what high quality care should be like for all looked-after children and young people. They are intended to be “aspirational but achievable” and professionals will be required to consider them when planning the care of children and young people.

Developed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), the standards demand that all children entering care or moving within the care system are offered a choice of placements, which meet their individual needs and preferences.

The standards also stipulate that all carers of looked-after children must receive ongoing high-quality training, support and supervision to enable them to improve the health and wellbeing of the young people they are responsible for.

In terms of promoting the views of children, the standards say all looked-after young people and care leavers must be “actively involved” in decisions at every stage of their care.

The draft standards meanwhile insist that all looked-after children who move between services or across local authority areas should experience continuity of care as a matter of course, and that care leavers should be offered continued access to support when they need it, to allow them to move to independence at their own pace.

The Health and Social Care Act (2012) set out a new responsibility for Nice to develop quality standards and other guidance for social care professionals in England.

The looked-after children consultation forms part of a pilot programme that is testing methods for presenting quality standards in social care settings, and developing a new approach to integrating related health and social care standards.

Dr Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at Nice, said: “As part of our preparation for taking on our new role in social care in April 2013, we are currently running a pilot programme for developing social care quality standards.

“Although NICE has been producing quality standards for health care since 2010, these will be the first standards for social care.”

The draft quality standards are based on existing Nice guidance and have been developed by an independent expert group made up of 19 members, including social care experts, people from other professional groups and lay members.

“Stakeholders, including health and social care professionals and members of the public now have the opportunity to comment on the draft quality standards, which are available on the Nice website,” Leng said.

Care services minister Paul Burstow, added: "By helping to define exactly what good care and support looks like, commissioners and care providers know what they should be delivering and people using services know what to expect from a high quality service.”

The consultation on the draft standards will run from 16 August until 16 October 2012. Nice will also undertake a “detailed process of field testing” to make sure the final standards are tailored to the professionals who will need to use them.

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