North Yorkshire has been chosen to lead an £84 million Government roll out to councils across the UK which includes the council’s ground-breaking programme to support children and young people at risk of entering care.
North Yorkshire is one of only three councils in the country (the other two are Leeds and Hertfordshire) to share £84 million in a landmark initiative called the Strengthening Families Protecting Children programme, to work with other councils and develop their services to become more successful in supporting young people on the edge of care to reconnect with their families and reduce risky behaviour.
Already North Yorkshire has been supporting Middlesbrough as a trailblazer to adopt its ground-breaking No Wrong Door programme and over the next five years will also support Rochdale, Redcar and Cleveland, Norfolk, Warrington and Leicester City.
The No Wrong Door scheme which is lauded nationally for its innovation and effectiveness, has improved radically the life chances of some of the county’s most vulnerable and troubled young people, reducing the numbers ending up either homeless or in the criminal system. This is ‘Louise’s story:
No Wrong Door has helped to reduce North Yorkshire’s looked-after population by 18 per cent in five years and has led to a £2m year-on-year saving. The vast majority of young people (86 per cent) referred to No Wrong Door remain out of the care system and the use of residential placements has fallen by half.
The vast majority of young people supported by No Wrong Door also remain in education, employment or training and levels of criminal activity have reduced by almost 40 per cent.
No Wrong Door avoids the high costs of placement breakdown, of having to use out-of-authority care and preventing young people’s descent into the very expensive criminal justice system. North Yorkshire now makes no out-of-county placements which, given that it costs upwards of £250,000 a year and can go up to several hundred thousand to place a young person in care outside the area of the council, this improvement delivers substantial savings.
“We are immensely proud to be doing this work and extending the No Wrong Door model to councils across the UK,” said County Councillor Janet Sanderson, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Children’s Services.
“Here in North Yorkshire we are passionately committed to helping young people turn their back on risky behaviour and to keeping them close to us and their communities with therapeutic, wrap-around, 24/7 support. We are building an international reputation for this ground-breaking work and this Government funding, announced today, will help us to develop the programme further.
“It has attracted a huge amount of interest because of its effectiveness in keeping children out of care and reconnected with their families and communities and in supporting young people living risky lives to stay safe and achieve in education and in the work place.”
Children and Families Minister Michelle Donelan said: “I want every child to grow up in safe, stable and loving home where they feel supported to take on the challenges life can present. However we have seen increasing numbers of children being taken into care, often as a result of their parents’ mental illness, alcohol or drug addiction, or the trauma of domestic violence.
“We cannot ignore the disruption to children’s lives that these issues cause, and that is why this government is investing in projects that tackle problems head on, backed by evidence that shows it can work. The No Wrong Door model is already proving to be successful in keeping families safely together, and giving stability for children where it did not exist before.”
North Yorkshire is already a Partner in Practice for the Department for Education, an exemplar children’s service which supports and works alongside other authorities to share good practice and develop long-term and sustainable high performance. No Wrong Door has attracted national awards for innovation in social work practice and the county’s children’s services are judged outstanding by Ofsted in all categories.
No Wrong Door addresses the chronic problems the care system faces of lack of mental health support for vulnerable young people and foster placements, which frequently break down because of the young people’s behaviour.
The service is centred on two hubs in the county, one in Scarborough, the other in Harrogate which replace traditional council run children’s homes with a range of integrated provision. This includes residential care home beds; emergency residential beds; community foster family placements; supported accommodation and supported lodgings and outreach support. All professionals working in the hubs are trained and work in common with a restorative and solutions-focused approach.
Each hub also has a dedicated and embedded team with a life coach who is a clinical psychologist, a speech and communications therapist and a police intelligence role.
Each young person is given one key worker who sticks with them through thick and thin to access the right services at the right time and in the right place to meet their need. It’s a tough love approach for those who have had a lifetime of experiencing rejection and failure.
NYCC will receive this significant Strengthening Families Government funding over 5 years to support the implementation of the No Wrong Door model into the six other councils. They will be expected to make significant savings, similar to those realised in North Yorkshire through reduced number of young people who are remanded to custody; involved in criminal behaviour; in out of authority placements; missing; experiencing placement breakdown; and involved in crisis presentations to mental health and emergency hospital services.
Janice Nicholson, strategic lead for North Yorkshire’s new Strengthening Families Delivery Team
Janice is responsible for rolling out No Wrong Door to other councils and was instrumental in developing the No Wrong Door model from the very beginning.
Next spring Janice will speak at the US National Residential conference in San Diego due to growing interest in the US in the No Wrong Door model.
She joined North Yorkshire County Council as a residential worker in a children’s home, going on to do a diploma in the management of care services and then a diploma in social work. “North Yorkshire has supported me all the way,” she said.
She is determined not to dilute the No Wrong Door model with other authorities. She said: “Through No Wrong Door we always work with families – strengthening networks, reconnecting young people with their families. Teenagers will often drift back to their families anyway after leaving care so better to strengthen that relationship and make it safe. Because if you don’t create these networks when they reach 18 they fall off the cliff edge”.
“We have a no-heads-on-beds policy in that our work in residential care is therapeutic and strengthening and is about keeping young people close to their communities.”
In all authorities Janice says No Wrong Door must retain the following elements:
- High “stickability” of the key worker. Each young person must have the same key worker to manage transitions;
- Robust training for staff in restorative practice;
- All No Wrong Door teams must include a speech and language therapist, a clinical psychologist/life coach, a No Wrong Door police officer;
- Timeliness of assessment which will include the use of signs of safety (a strengths-based and safety-focused approach to child protection work grounded in partnership and collaboration)
- Multi-agency intelligence work including the post of police intelligence analyst;
- Strong commitment from police, NHS and elected members;
- Continually identify innovative opportunities to develop young people’’s self-esteem and resilience.
James Cliffe, group manager for No Wrong Door in North Yorkshire
James is a former soldier who served in Basra and an ex prison officer who has helped to shape the No Wrong Door service in North Yorkshire. His infectious warmth and generosity masks a steely determination to give the children in his care – some of society’s most vulnerable - the good life they deserve.
He commands a team of hub workers who have both residential and outreach duties; a speech and language therapist; a life coach who is a clinical psychologist; a police liaison officer and specialist foster parents.
Ofsted has rated the No Wrong Door service as outstanding in every category and James as “an outstanding role model for staff, young people and other professionals. Young people are left in no doubt that the registered manager and staff will go all out to help them.”
“A lot of the kids who come to us through No Wrong Door have given up hope”, said James. “When you come from a family background where there is substance misuse or alcohol dependency and poor mental health, the future is too unknown, you don’t have aspirations. Our job is to build up relationships and build up their confidence and we have a whole team dedicated to that, doing whatever is necessary to keep them safe and give them a future.
“You have to find out what they are good at - it might be mountain biking, fishing, boxing - and build on that. We do focus on rigorous teaching and learning, but a lot of education we do is also outside the classroom – providing wonderful outdoor experiences.”
As well as being the lynchpin for the operation and hugely respected by the young people supported by No Wrong Door, James with his wife and family also fosters.
James came back to North Yorkshire to work in children’s social care after being a prison officer in Bristol. He was brought up in Scarborough by parents who themselves fostered large numbers of children. He remembers endless days of picnics on the beach; ball games on the sand and rock pooling – “good, honest and affordable” childhood pleasures with burgeoning numbers of siblings.
It has left him with a profound sense of duty and the desire to carry on the good work: “It gave me a real understanding that all children are not as lucky as I was and a real commitment to public service.”
James now lives in Scarborough with his wife Sarah, a teacher, their birth sons Jack, 8, and Sam, 6, and four foster sons: James, 19, and Daniel, 17, who are brothers; Dan aged 18 and Kyle, 16 who have come through the No Wrong Door service.
Dan’s young life had been very hard and risky and Dan freely admits that if it wasn’t for James, Sarah and the No Wrong Door service, he could be in prison. He said: “James is an incredible man. He’s just always there for you. You don’t cross him, you know where you stand with him, but he’d do anything for you,”
Whatever happens, says James, you have to always be there for young people and able go back into work with a smile on your face: “You have to be massively resilient in this line of work because you can have everything thrown at you, but underneath it all these kids are human and they deserve to have all the chances that everybody else has.”
North Yorkshire’s Children and Families Services became involved with Billy after information passed on through education, family and the police, that Billy’s peer group were significantly older and were involved in criminal activities. His parents reported that Billy was committing crimes and involved in using and selling drugs as directed by this older peer group. They also reported that he had both drugs and weapons in the family home that he was hiding to protect those older peers.
They and Billy’s social worker were worried that Billy was being forced into these behaviours and was vulnerable to being subject to physical harm by refusing to continue.
Billy began to withdraw from his family; persistently missing for long periods of time from home, and his parents felt they could no longer keep him safe and were concerned for their other children’s safety as older peers were visiting the home.
A referral was made to the No Wrong Door service. Due to a significant missing episode where it appeared Billy was trafficked to another county and was missing for a number of days, his parents refused to let him return home to their care, and he became looked after.
He was carefully matched with two key workers who are experienced in mediation and restorative practice. Staff provided support to rebuild the relationship between Billy and his parents and worked towards a return home. They worked therapeutically to address Billy’s confrontational behaviour, and Billy worked with the No Wrong Door Life Coach to look at swings in mood, aggressive outbursts and risk taking behaviours.
The No Wrong Door Communication Support Worker also assessed Billy to meet his speech & language communication needs. Staff worked consistently to restore trust in Billy’s relationships with adults and immediate family.
Through No Wrong Door Billy built positive relationships with many staff members, enjoying one to one time with key staff, and enjoying trips and activities.
He was no longer involved with the police and with his former older peer group. He grew
in confidence about his personal abilities, talking to keyworkers about past experiences and future planning.
Staff built strong, trusting relationships with Billy, showing empathy, compassion, and active listening.
Billy is now living back at home, has age-appropriate friends, is enrolled in a local boxing club and gym, and attends school regularly.