“I’m treated as an individual, not a problem:” The “No Wrong Door” policy

The “No Wrong Door” (NWD) programme means exactly that – there is no wrong door to turn to for young people seeking support.

NWD works on several core principles, which include working with young people’s birth family or guardians, allowing care leavers to “stay close” to continue accessing support, and working closely with young people to identify ways to help their self-esteem and give them opportunities. NWD has been introduced in several areas of the UK.

England

The term “No Wrong Door” was coined in North Yorkshire, where two hubs were created in Scarborough and Harrogate. The North Yorkshire County Council website provides details on the work their teams do.  

Each hub has a dedicated team which includes a life coach, a speech therapist, two community foster families and community supported lodging places for 16- and 17-year-olds with trained staff. On top of this, every young person in the NWD programme has their own key worker who is supported by another team. Many young people struggle when they are moved around as they grow up; new teams or workers don’t know their history or personality well. Having one consistent key worker for each young person makes it easier to build trust and create a more positive relationship.

Wales

A report from the Children’s Commissioner for Wales has described the steps taken by the Welsh Government to implement a ‘no wrong door’ approach to supporting children and young people. Funding has been earmarked specifically for children with complex needs, and all regions of Wales now have specific multi-agency groups for young people.

Regions like Cardiff and Vale have been implementing some of the common core principles of NWD, such as continuity of staff, key workers and streamlined appointments, in addition to a “proactive not reactive early intervention response.”

Scotland and Northern Ireland

NWD was introduced in Scotland by the Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Board (CYPMHW). In addition to building the original programme, it gave young people the opportunity to identify wellbeing priorities. These included having a job, a safe and warm place to live, food and clothes, good relationships, safety, feeling happy and confident, good health and opportunities to learn.  

There seems to be less evidence of NWD being implemented in Northern Ireland, although it has been proposed as a way to support children of parents with mental illness.

Impact

There has been a great amount of evidence that NWD is effective in helping young people. The Department for Education (DfE) published a report in 2017 which looked at the initial success of the “No Wrong Door Innovation Programme.” They found that for young people who were supported under NWD, there had been a decrease in arrests and incidents of them going missing, which indicates that giving young people more stable support systems leads to an overall higher level of happiness.

The report also found that under NWD, 25% of those who were not previously in education, employment or training went on to become engaged in education, training or work. 87% of young people who were using substances when they entered the NWD programme had also stopped when they were interviewed as a follow-up.

What can be improved?

There are a number of aspects under NWD that can be improved. A lack of long-term funding has meant that staff were not given the security of knowing if their contract was being extended. This meant many workers found permanent jobs elsewhere to ensure their own job security, and those who stayed were anxious about their future which impacted them negatively. It also had a negative effect on the young people under NWD if staff leaving was not handled appropriately.

On top of this, some young people had mixed feelings around their transition out of the support network. While many felt they were being supported efficiently, others described the transition as “abrupt” and “too fast.” This is definitely something that can be improved on with more training for staff and more structure in place for those who need more time when moving forward into the next stage of life.

Final thoughts

While NWD is by no means perfect, it has significantly given young people support during the most transitional period of their life, from adolescence to adulthood. Having key workers develop consistent relationships has allowed them to more strongly advocate for young people as they see them as more than just a case number. As stated by one young person in one of the studies, with NWD, “I’m treated as an individual, not a problem.”

As the programme evolves and more structure is put into place, there is hope that many more young people can be encouraged and given the platform to achieve their full potential.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.

Further reading: more from The Knowledge Exchange Blog on children and young people

Recognising the value of foster care

Looked after childrenBy Rebecca Riley

Earlier this week, the Prison Reform Trust announced an independent review into why so many children in care in England and Wales end up in the criminal justice system. Led by Lord Laming, the inquiry is expected to report back in early 2016. This news follows on the heels of Foster Care Fortnight (held in the first two weeks in June) which aims to raise awareness of the value of fostering, and encourage more people to foster.

As a former foster carer of teenagers, I have a very real understanding of the challenges facing foster carers. My own experience was both the most rewarding job and the hardest – nothing equips you for dealing with the issues children in care go through. The back stories of young people who end up in care are inconceivable to most of us, but the opportunity to give a young person an alternative, a better future or a new beginning is a vital service to our community, one which is undervalued.

Empowering children in care

The greatest challenge I faced as a foster carer was not the behaviour, the police and court visits, or under resourced social workers, it was dealing with the concept that young people in care are lost, their lives are everyone’s business and unlike you or I, they are not empowered to make decisions for themselves.  This empowerment requires strong and trusting relationships between carers and the child.

The Centre for Social Justice in their recent report ‘Finding their feet: equipping care leavers to reach their potential’ highlights the value of ‘staying put’ which allows young people to remain in foster care, and recommends young people should only be moved on when they feel ready. The report provides good practice and case studies to enable young people leaving care make a successful transition into adulthood.

A huge social issue

Looked after children (LAC) are a huge social issue; currently in England there are 68,110 children being looked after by councils, representing 0.6% of all children under 18, the majority because of abuse or neglect. This number has increased by 12% since 2009. Children’s social care accounts for 5% of local authority total spend, at £6.9bn, with £3.4bn specifically on LAC. It costs on average £137 a day, or just over £50,000 per child a year.

The Audit Commission report into LAC, found they do less well at school than other children. They are also likely to experience poorer outcomes in adult life and this can have wider societal impacts, leading to higher costs to the public purse in the long term. Long-term impacts include: 23% of the adult prison population; 25% of those living on the street; they are 4 or 5 times more likely to commit suicide in adulthood and 36% of 19 year olds who were looked after, were not in employment, education or training.

The value of foster care

So a foster carer should be valued by society as a means to resolving this growing social issue. Recent work understanding foster placement instability for looked after children highlights a number of factors which lead to foster placement breakdown:

  • older age of child
  • externalising behaviour
  • longer total time in care
  • residential care as first placement setting
  • separation from siblings
  • foster care versus kinship care
  • experience of multiple social workers.

And protective factors include:

  • placements with siblings
  • placement with older foster carers
  • more experienced foster carers with strong parenting skills
  • placements where foster carers provide opportunities to develop intellectually.

As The Fostering Network highlights, fostering is about making a difference, touching the lives of young people and making a positive change.


Find out more about being a foster carer from your local council or the gov.uk website.

Become a member of the Idox Information Service now, to access a wealth of further information on how social services can help and support foster carers, including case studies and commentary. Contact us for more details.

Further reading for members:

Investigating Special Guardianship: Experiences, challenges and outcomes

Inclusion of looked after children in education

Becoming adults: one-year impact findings from Youth Villages transitional living evaluation