SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter provides information on supported lodgings providers who deliver placements for young people aged 16 to 25 who are, or have been, Looked After young people, care leavers or homeless and are vulnerable and not yet ready to live independently. As private individuals, lodgings providers offer young people a room in their home with varying levels of informal support and mentoring according to need. It covers recruitment, assessment and training of lodgings providers, as well as providing information on making referrals and placements for young people.
This chapter was added to the procedures manual in May 2015.
- Statement of Purpose
- Service Profile
- Promoting Equality and Cultural Identity
- Making Placements
- Support Plans, Pathway Plans, Reviews and Other Arrangements
- Developing Independent Living Skills
- Support to the Lodgings Provider
- Financial Procedures
- Handling Disruptions
- Moving On
- Quality Assurance and Performance Monitoring
1. Statement of Purpose
The Scheme recruits and supports lodgings providers (sometimes called "hosts") to deliver at least 15 placements for young people aged 16 to 25 who are or have been Looked After young people, care leavers or homeless and are vulnerable and not yet ready to live independently. As private individuals, lodgings providers offer young people a room in their home with varying levels of informal support and mentoring according to need.
Stepping Stones workers assess the lodgings providers and their accommodation, provide support, and, along with others, including the young person's allocated worker, work to ensure a safe and supportive environment to enable young people to develop the skills necessary for independent living through more formal pathway planning.
2. Service Profile
The Scheme is part of Bradford's corporate parenting approach and operates within its Leaving Care Service with 1.8 dedicated workers along with the support of a leaving care social worker and admin workers. Other leaving care workers are available to support the scheme within their normal service roles.
The Scheme is managed by a leaving care team manager responsible to the leaving care service manager. The Scheme is funded jointly by Adult Services (through the Supporting People programme) and Children's Services and is dependent on receipt of housing benefit / local housing allowance. The Scheme works in partnership with other arrangements that enable Looked After young people to Stay Put with their former foster carers at 18 or provide emergency lodgings for homeless 16 and 17 year olds and links with other supported accommodation providers to promote smooth transitions into independent living.
Periodically, the leaving care service manager will agree recruitment campaigns and authorise related expenditure. A campaign plan will be agreed in advance. Experience of other organisations suggests that:
- Newspaper adverts are best run for 3 or 4 consecutive day (prospective applicants usually consider acting after seeing an advert a couple of times);
- Feature articles in newspapers or on local radio provide useful background to campaigns;
- Campaigns can be targeted generally or within a specific local area;
- Word of mouth from existing lodgings providers usually works best; and
- Where interested applicants make contact, it is important to follow this up quickly.
Prospective lodgings providers who want to proceed after initial enquires and follow up will be assessed and provided with training.
Procedure for Recruitment
- Team manager will draw up and cost recruitment campaign plan for Service Manager agreement;
- Stepping Stones workers will respond to enquires from prospective lodgings providers through telephone discussion, sending out information, follow up phone calls and face to face meeting;
- Prospective providers who want to proceed further will complete an application form.
The aim of assessment is to ensure that both applicants and their property provide a safe and supportive environment for young people and to inform an understanding of how households, with their different lifestyles, regimes and strengths would best be matched with particular young people.
Assessment requires information gathering and evaluation. Applicants will be involved in a home study that considers who lives in the household and who is in regular contact with it, their health, experience, knowledge, skills and attitudes in working with or caring for young people, house rules and lifestyle, cultural awareness and commitment to equal opportunities, expectations, wishes and limitations as well as specific issues such as family pets. Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks and other references will be taken. The standard of the property, location, facilities and suitability for young people will be assessed in line with statutory guidance for unregulated placements under S.22(2)(f) of the 1989 Children Act as set out in Care Planning Regulations and Guidance (2010).
Assessments will be completed by Stepping Stones workers with involvement from the leaving care social worker, checked by the leaving care team manager, discussed at Panel and authorised by the leaving care service manager. Where practical, an existing service user or other young person will be involved in part of the assessment process. Where possible, unsuitable applicants will be counselled out of proceeding further at earlier stages of the process.
Assessment will also help to identify initial training needs. There will be an annual review of approval. Each lodgings provider will have a separate case file.
Procedure for Assessment
- Stepping Stones workers will undertake assessments and related checks with support from the leaving care social worker, completing Form SS2 to be checked by the leaving care manager;
- The completed assessment will be presented and discussed at Stepping Stones Panel;
- The Panel will run alongside the Shared Lives Panel and will involve a young person. The prospective lodgings provider will usually be invited;
- Panel will make recommendation for final approval and authorisation by the Service Manager;
- When approved, the new provider will receive a welcome pack and sign agreement to work with the Stepping Stones scheme. Each new provider will be allocated a named Stepping Stones support worker.
5. Promoting Equality and Cultural Identity
The Scheme aims to recruit and approve a range of lodgings providers that reflect the diverse ethnic backgrounds of the population in Bradford, irrespective of gender or sexual orientation. Lodgings providers will be expected to counteract racism and support young people in celebrating and maintaining positive ethnic and cultural identity. Where it is possible to match a young person with a provider from the same ethnic and cultural background, this will be offered as a choice to the young person. Gender issues will be considered in making placements and discussed with the young person. Lodgings providers will be expected to promote equality and value difference in matters of culture, ethnicity, religion, gender and sexual orientation.
- Equality issues will be considered in assessment and training;
- Lodgings providers will be given advice on practical matters relating to equality where required;
- Equality and diversity issues will be taken into account in making and supporting placements.
The Scheme will provide both general induction training and periodic training opportunities on specific topics. Training may be provided individually and within groups. There will be a general expectation on lodgings providers to take part in training. Training can be provided through a variety of methods including organised courses, mentoring from a more experienced provider, observation visits and individual research. Training should help providers understanding the young person's experience and journey through supported housing, the role they undertake in this, ways in which providers can help young people develop their independent living skills and how to deal with specific issues.
- The named Stepping Stones worker will discuss training needs and opportunities during support visits;
- Lodgings providers will be invited to periodic training events.
The Scheme will receive referrals mainly from workers within the Leaving Care Service but may accept referrals from other parts of Children's Services. Referrals will be received by Stepping Stones workers and discussed with the leaving care team manager. Referrers will be given initial indications within a fortnight as to whether the referral can be accepted and the likely timescales for identifying a placement. Where it is unlikely that a placement will be identified with the timescale required by the referrer, there will be discussion as to whether the referral is discontinued (and if necessary, made again at a later stage) or put on hold and reviewed at periodic intervals. Some referrals may require an ongoing dialogue with the referrer as young people's circumstances change. When unmatched vacancies occur, the Scheme will advertise these within the Leaving Care Service. The team manager will maintain an overview of vacancies and referrals so as to maintain an appropriate balance between demand from care leavers (whose transition needs may require timely planning) and that from homeless young people (whose needs are likely to be immediate).
Research indicates that supported lodgings are most suitable for young people who are willing and able to engage with individuals, particularly the lodgings provider, and with social frameworks such as education and training, regulate their behaviour to accommodate house rules and turn a desire for a sustainable and satisfying adult life into activities which will promote this outcome. Other young people should not necessarily be excluded from consideration but additional work may be required to help them understand and adapt to the requirements of a lodgings placement. Some young people cannot be safely placed within a lodgings providers home and the Scheme's risk assessment is designed to identify these if referred.
- Referring workers may discuss the viability and appropriateness of referrals with a Stepping Stones worker but must complete a Referral Form if wanting to proceed. Involvement of young person;
- The Stepping Stones worker should access ICS information and, if required, hold further discussion with the referring worker in order to gain a full picture of the young person, their circumstances and any significant features to the request (e.g. timing of placement requirement geographical and gender issues in matching).
Matching young people to the right lodgings provider is a key factor to making a successful placement. Matching involves judgment based on knowledge of the lodgings provider and the young person. Matching by Stepping Stones workers should be done in discussion with the young person's allocated worker and the leaving care team manager. Preparatory work, such as introductory visits and overnight stays prior to placement can help test out whether the young person and lodgings provider take to each other and the suitability of the match.
- Stepping Stones workers and the leaving care manager will discuss prospective matches in monthly team meetings (or outside of these if necessary);
- Stepping Stones worker will then discuss the proposed match with the lodgings provider and allocated leaving care worker and agree a planned introduction.
9. Making Placements
Preparation of both the young person and the lodgings provider is another key factor in making successful placements. Preparation involves information sharing, the opportunity to start developing a relationship and the establishment of trust and mutual expectations, particularly around house rules. It is important for both the young person and lodgings provider to be able to experience and reflect on what the lodgings placement will entail prior to its commencement through progressive introductions such as going for tea, taking part in an activity together and overnight stays. This phase provides opportunity to resolve specific issues and to be clear about expectations and the consequences of specific actions. At the same time, progressive introductions generally need to maintain momentum and not unduly delay the start of the placement.
An updated risk assessment needs completing prior to overnight stays and the terms of the licence agreement require discussion and consent. Where relevant, benefit forms require completion, the importance of these needs to be underlined along with the requirement for prompt information about any changes in circumstances.
- The Stepping Stones worker, lodgings provider and leaving care worker will liaise about the preparation work required to establish a successful placement and agree respective roles and tasks;
- The leaving care worker will normally take the lead role in helping the young person reflect on what the placement will entail and the Stepping Stones worker will normally take the lead role in supporting the lodgings provider through information sharing and reflective discussion;
- Both workers will discuss and reinforce house rules with the young person;
- The Stepping Stones worker will explain the terms of the licence agreement, complete any required housing benefit forms and reinforce the importance of these and prompt information about any matters that might affect a claim.
10. Support Plans, Pathway Plans, Reviews and Other Arrangements
In order to avoid duplication, support plans for young people in Stepping Stones supported lodgings will be incorporated into the young person's pathway plan (or Child in Need plan if the young person is not a care leaver). Plans will be reviewed within normal processes (e.g. by Independent Reviewing Officer where the young person is Looked After). The support element of the plan should focus on work to develop the young person's independent living skills.
Normally there should be a support planning meeting either immediately prior to placement or within 28 days. Where the young person is Looked After, this should take place within the Looked After Review.
As an "unregulated placement" under the 1989 Children Act, an individual assessment of suitability is required for each Looked After young person. The leaving care worker will complete the ACC29 checklist for assessment of suitability of an unregulated placement in relation to the individual young person.
Statutory visiting requirements apply in respect of care leavers.
The Stepping Stones worker will take the main role in providing support to the lodgings provider.
- Where the young person is Looked After, the leaving care worker should take lead responsibility in liaising with the IRO to convene a review meeting;
- Where the young person is not Looked After, the Stepping Stones worker should take lead responsibility and chair the meeting;
- In either case, the leaving care worker will take responsibility for updating the young person's pathway plan after the meeting to take account of the new arrangements and the support provided to develop the young person's independent living skills;
- The leaving care worker will complete the ACC29 checklist for assessment of suitability of an unregulated placement in relation to the individual young person;
- The leaving care worker will undertake regular visiting at no less a frequency than statutory requirements and more often if required;
- The Stepping Stones worker will agree arrangements to provide support to the lodgings provider.
11. Developing Independent Living Skills
Supported lodgings provide young people with a setting in which independent living skills can be developed both formally and informally and through which young people can mature emotionally. In order to live independently, young people require both knowledge and skills but also the right attitudes and behaviours. The lodgings provider acts as an informal mentor and role model and every day events can provide a trigger for discussions that assist the young person's understanding, both intellectually and emotionally. Additionally, young people require more formal, structured work to develop independent living skills through a support plan incorporated into their pathway plan. This work may be provided by the young person's Leaving Care worker, a Stepping Stones worker or through group work.
In general, young people are likely to require support to develop knowledge and skills in the following areas:
- Relationships - getting on with neighbours; understanding acceptable behaviour; when and how to communicate with relevant professionals;
- Emotional Resilience - managing isolation and where to go for support. Building self-esteem;
- Finance and budgeting - opening a bank account, safe borrowing and managing debt, understanding basic financial products, benefits and welfare reform; budgeting for priority bills, household appliances and everyday shopping on a budget;
- Cooking - cooking healthily and on a budget; understanding nutrition and its impact on overall health;
- Managing a home - washing and ironing, cleaning, basic DIY, operating appliances and what is allowed within a tenancy; and
- Applying for jobs - understanding strengths and areas for personal development; developing job skills, understanding job/volunteering pathways and support available; understanding bursaries and other financial support; where to go for advice; understanding the impact of work on benefits.
Individual young people will also each have their own needs in developing not only knowledge and skills but the right attitudes and behaviours that support successful independent living and support plans should be tailored to individual needs.
- The allocated leaving care worker will take responsibility for collecting and co-ordinating information about the young person's independent living skills and developing a support plan to be incorporated into the pathway plan;
- The Stepping Stones worker will discuss with the lodgings provider their role in delivering their part in the Support Plan.
12. Support to the Lodgings Provider
Lodgings providers are essentially volunteers who welcome a young person into their home and receive a payment for doing so. Support to the lodgings provider is crucial in maintaining placements. Lodgings providers should feel that they are a valued part of the team around the young person. Support should give them opportunity to discuss how placements are progressing from their perspective, ventilate their feelings, discuss specific issues and seek advice. It is also opportunity for reflection, constructive feedback and acknowledging achievements.
- The Stepping Stones worker will agree a regular visiting frequency with the lodgings provider. Normally this would be four weekly. This may be supplemented by phone contact;
- The Stepping Stones worker will keep brief notes of contact on the lodgings provider's file.
Safeguarding a young person's welfare is central to the provision of supported lodgings. A pro active approach is taken both in training for the lodgings provider and in preparation of the young person for placement. Any identified safeguarding concerns or issues will be assessed and recorded in the young person's pathway plan and reviewed with the plan. Issues may arise through risky and harmful behaviours by the young person towards themselves (such as self harm or substance misuse) or others in the household. There may also be concern about vulnerability to sexual exploitation. Relevant child protection or adult protection procedures will apply if allegations or concerns arise about the lodgings provider's behaviour towards the young person or the young person's behaviour towards other young people or adults in the household or about sexual exploitation.
- Any concerns about the safety or welfare of a young person in supported lodgings placement should be discussed immediately with a manager;
- In respect of a young person under 18, the manager will decide whether S.47 Enquires are required and, if not, give other advice;
- All workers should follow relevant West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding Procedures and Bradford MDC Adult Protection Procedures.
14. Financial Procedures
The Scheme is provided "in house" by Leaving Care on the basis of a transfer of resources from Supporting People / Adult Services and payment of rent, usually through Housing Benefit as young people will usually be in training or education and claiming benefits. Young people will also be expected to make a contribution from their income to the lodgings provider.
- The Scheme worker will ensure that a Housing Benefit form, along with proof of identity, is submitted on commencement of placement or at any other stage (e.g. care leaver's 18th birthday) where a young person is entitled to claim;
- The lodgings provider will inform the Scheme worker of any changes in the young person's circumstances that might affect the Housing Benefit claim so that appropriate action can be taken;
- The Scheme worker will set up payments to the Lodgings Provider for young people in placement.
The general principle is that the young person should be responsible for damages and should make restitution through weekly payments from their income. Accidental damage should be covered by the lodgings providers own insurance policy, although the young person may be liable for any excess. Extensive damage not covered by the insurance policy may fall within the council's indemnity policy. Deliberate damage is not acceptable but is likely to require assessment as to its origins and whether any work (such as anger management) will prevent reoccurrence. Deliberate damage may result in placement disruption.
- The Stepping Stones worker will discuss issues around damage, insurance and restitution with the prospective lodgings provider prior to approval;
- The Stepping Stones worker should take the lead role in dealing with issues relating to damages;
- Where restitution for damages is appropriate and practical, arrangements should be agreed through the leaving care manager;
- If there is extensive damage, consideration will be given as to whether this falls with the council's indemnity policy;
- Deliberate damage is likely to require police involvement;
- In all cases workers should seek to put arrangements in place to avoid future damage;
- Where deliberate damage results in placement disruption, it is likely that the young person will require immediate alternative placement.
16. Handling Disruptions
Any potential for placement disruption should be identified as part of ongoing work with both the lodgings provider and the young person. Disruptions usually come about through a mismatch in expectations between the young person and the lodgings provider, persistent breaches of house rules by the young person, failure to pay rent or required financial contribution, breakdown in relationships through lack of trust or respect or a sudden unexpected incident such as deliberate damage.
Early identification of the potential for disruption should enable steps to be taken to resolve matters before either the young person or the lodgings provider requests end of the placement. Careful judgment may be required in deciding the best way of avoiding disruption. Workers should liaise with each other and seek advice from the leaving care manager. In general the aim of work should be to try to maintain the placement but there are some situations where a quick end to the placement is less damaging to both the young person and lodgings provider. In other circumstances, time out for the young person may give opportunity for reflection, changes in behaviour and a fresh start. In general, where issues relate to the young person's behaviour and breach of tenancy agreement, disruptions should be handled through an escalating process of warnings and through the young person drawing up a behaviour contract through which they are able to reflect on changes required and commit to them. Failure to make the necessary changes would usually result in the young person being given Notice by the Scheme. Additionally, the lodgings provider may give 28 days notice to the Scheme to terminate a lodgings arrangement. Immediate end of the placement is likely to be necessary where there is serious concern about violent behaviour or damage to the property.
- Workers will share concerns about any issues that have the potential to lead to disruption and agree preventive action;
- The Stepping Stones worker will discuss potential disruptions with the leaving care manager to seek advice about additional support or approaches that can be taken;
- Where a more formal approach is required, the leaving care manager will initiate a process of warnings and the young person will be asked to draw up and own their own behaviour contract;
- Normally there will be 2 written warnings before a young person is issued with notice to quit.
17. Moving On
Young people will normally stay on the Stepping Stones Scheme for up to 2 years but some may require supported lodgings for a longer period. Young people will normally move on to an independent tenancy with some initial resettlement support from the Stepping Stones scheme while others may move into a supported tenancy with another support scheme. Options and timescales for moving on will form part of pathway planning and discussion at pathway reviews. Where provided, resettlement support will normally be least for 3 months. The young person's allocated leaving care worker should normally take the main role in sourcing move on housing.
- Timescales for moving on will be identified through the pathway planning process;
- The young person's leaving care worker will be responsible for helping the young person to find appropriate move on accommodation.
18. Quality Assurance and Performance Monitoring
The Scheme will collect a variety of data to assist with quality assurance and performance monitoring, including evaluations from lodgings providers, young people and their workers and statistical data that indicates the distance travelled by young people while in placement.
- Evaluations with lodgings providers, young people and their workers will be carried out annually and at end of placement. Where possible these will be undertaken independently by the young person's participation apprentice;
- Stepping Stones workers will collect statistical data quarterly on young people in placement;
- A succinct annual report will be produced on the performance of the scheme.