We understand that if people have a genuine need, it’s in everybody’s interests to make sure that they get good quality advice, information or support, and that they get it quickly.
Nobody likes waiting lists.
Two areas where we’ve made significant improvements in Conwy are for Young People (16+) with a disability as they move towards adulthood, and for Care Leavers we’ve improved links with Welfare Rights and careers advice. This has made it much easier and faster to make sure that young people are getting any benefits they are entitled to, and it’s helping them to be aware of all their options around carrying on with their education, doing some training, or getting a job.
Transition Process in the Conwy Child Development Centre
The Conwy Child Development Centre (CDC) was opened in 2009 and consists of a multi-disciplinary team that support children who are under 5 years of age with complex needs. The multi-disciplinary team consists of a classroom teacher, Educational Psychologist, Clinical Psychologist, Social Worker, Speech and language therapist, Physiotherapist, Occupational Therapist, Paediatrician, Child Development Nurse and the Sensory Team.
A child with complex needs is defined as having two or more areas of development that are limited in some way and require specialist intervention. Early Support (2009) has supported the development of the transition process with one of the principles being that “Families experience continuity of care through different phases of their engagement with services.”
The development of the transition process
In the early stages of the CDC, it was noted that parents were overwhelmed by multi-agency meetings and lengthy reports on their child. This often left them feeling unable to partake effectively within the planning process of their child, particularly with the moving on stage from pre-school to part time school.
The multi-disciplinary team therefore wanted to create better joint assessments, planning and reviews – so that service delivery was holistic, co-ordinated and seamless. This would enable children’s learning and development to be better monitored and promoted, parents were involved alongside working practices and systems that are integrated
The transition process
There are four stages within the transition from CDC to part time school, these being within the Autumn Term, Spring term, Summer term and the following Autumn term, The CDC multi-disciplinary team continue to work into the Autumn term when the child is in part time school. This was to enable continuity of intervention, as well as supporting unfamiliar staff to the child and family.
To monitor this process, there are termly multi-disciplinary team meetings – now named Conwy Multi-Agency Partnership Meetings (C-MAP) This process now has a clear format in which there are contributions by parents and all relevant professionals in ‘jargon’ free language. The ethos of C-MAP being “to enable parents to be equal partners within the planning process, of their child, amongst a range of professionals” (Early Support 2009) C-MAP therefore aims to communicate clearly, with no jargon, no lengthy reports, while capturing and combining information, presenting and recording clear plans, actions and reviews
Within this process are additional formats, including the All About Me booklet – which provides schools with an up to date overview of the child, providing clear knowledge of the child’s strengths and difficulties. Additionally, when the child moves into the final Autumn term in the transition process, parents/carers are provided with a contact list, which informs parents who they can contact when they have left the CDC.
Evaluation of the transition process
In reviewing the process in 2013, the overall feedback from parents/carers was positive, with some areas of development being identified.
Parents have noted that they feel more involved within the process of their children, both within their reviews and the actions being identified and met.
Schools have mostly felt supported by the information provided, however they have noted that some of the specialist skills required due to complexities of need are limited.
An action plan is now being created to aid a method of extending the support to schools within the first academic year, provision of training for school staff and teaching assistants, as well as further development of under threshold services of support for children and families.
Pathways & Welfare Rights
The Pathways & Personal Advisor teams work with young people aged 16 -21 years who are or have previously been, looked after and are moving towards independence. There were concerns as to whether these young people were getting appropriate access and advice about all the benefits they were entitled to. When the Welfare Rights service developed a project to enable specific groups of people to access a comprehensive welfare benefits service directly, Care leavers were identified as one of the groups most in need of this type of service.
One of the drivers for the project was to improve the time taken from claiming a benefit to it actually being paid to the young person. Delays were proving costly to children’s services as weekly allowances and housing costs had to continue to be paid by the department whilst the benefit claims were being sorted out.
Care Leavers are now able to make a claim for benefits before their 18th birthday, this means that they receive benefits as soon as they reach 18 years, therefore reducing the cost to Conwy and also reducing the anxiety for vulnerable young people.
This early claim arrangement has been made possible by the Welfare Rights project worker developing close links with the local Jobcentre Plus and advising and assisting social workers and personal advisors when young people are eligible to claim.
The Welfare Rights project worker also sits on Conwy’s NEET ( Not in Education, Employment or Training) panel and can therefore provide benefits advice at an early stage and support young people to move into work by providing ‘better off’ calculations so that they are aware of the financial gains of taking up employment.
What difference has the project made?
Care Leavers are now experiencing a more streamlined benefit claim process and receiving consistent advice about their entitlements. The project worker works closely with social workers and personal advisors and has also developed effective working relationships with the Housing benefit department and a variety of landlords, which helps to ensure that tenancies are maintained during times of financial difficulty.
AJ, 18 years old, single parent after partner was imprisoned, benefits stopped due to change of circumstances, unable to afford the rent on her property, therefore at risk of losing her home and facing extreme poverty; Joint working between Welfare Rights project worker, Personal Advisor, housing benefit department and landlord enabled AJ to reapply for benefits with minimum delay, whilst allowing her to maintain her tenancy until the claim was sorted out.
This post is also available in: Welsh