Brighter Futures aims to transform outcomes and life chances for children, young people and their families in care and for those on the edge of care. Ealing wanted to increase the number and quality of in house foster carers, increase the numbers of children supported in local placements and to support the return of young people who are in expensive out of borough residential placements.
Ealing have redesigned the operational and strategic model of service delivery, creating two multidisciplinary teams: Multi-Agency Support Teams (MAST) for young people on the edge of care and Connect for those in residential or foster care. These teams have taken an intensive, multi-agency approach to addressing the needs of the most vulnerable. The initial pilot teams comprised social workers, clinical psychologists, connexions workers, education specialists, youth justice workers, family support workers, fostering support social workers, youth workers, and youth mentors that would help provide intensive support to young people.
Brighter Futures began with a focus on reshaping support by devolving decision-making closer to the young person. Small, multi-skilled teams offering intensive family intervention work alongside a new cohort of specially trained advanced foster carers, specifically recruited to work with the most complex adolescents. At its heart is a practice model bespoke to Ealing and designed collaboratively by the Anna Freud Centre, the Dyadic Developmental Network and the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust. Dyadic developmental psychotherapy training for social workers and foster carers is combined with the relational PACE model and daily multidisciplinary team meetings.
Following the success of the original programme, Brighter Futures is being scaled up across the borough to become the ethos and practice underpinning how all children’s social care is delivered.
The DfE-funded independent evaluation published in 2017 found that:
- Nine young people moved from residential placements to foster placements during the pilot.
- The 25 young people, parents and 9 carers who participated in the research were overwhelmingly positive about the intensive and relational model of service provided.
- Young people said that they trusted youth mentors and youth workers and welcomed their involvement and support.
- Placement stability was promoted: only one of the CONNECT placements broke down. Foster carers said that enhanced support from the team coupled with training to help them understand and manage behaviour had been important to prevent crises escalating.
- Lead workers drew upon the wide range of multi-disciplinary expertise within their teams to inform their direct work, reducing the need to make referrals and facilitating timely service responses and tailored support.
- The nine foster placements that replaced residential placements generated an associated cost avoidance of around £800,000.