Good practice

20th January 2006 at 00:00
The Looked After Children Education Service (Lace) in Calderdale has 11 members of staff including a full-time literacy co-ordinator and an educational welfare officer as well as an extensive, out-of-school-hours service run by a full-time social worker and a youth worker.

The out-of-hours service runs two clubs on Tuesday and Friday evenings incorporating a range of activities such as swimming, trampolining, rock-climbing, circus skills, theatre trips and football.

It enables looked-after siblings in different care placements to spend time with each other and for a sense of kinship to develop.

The service has developed strong partnerships with museums and arts services, countryside and forestry services, libraries, Leisure in Action and the Children's Fund. These have led to a range of projects, such as an allotment for looked-after children to grow food, the adoption of a greyhound from a rescue centre, involvement in the Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme, and cycling proficiency. Other services include:

* Free provision for looked-after children and their carers for visiting leisure and arts centres, as well as regional historic sites and other venues.

* A transition buddy scheme. Lace staff act as "buddies" to looked-after children transferring to secondary school, and remain buddies until they leave school.

They may visit young people once a term or every week depending on the level of support needed and the difficulties they face and act as a go-between for multi-agency help.

* A specialist mental-health team and designated nurses for looked-after children.

* A designated GP and dental practitioner to ensure annual medical and dental checks at least. The health of looked-after children often suffers because of their disrupted lives, with knock-on effects for educational attainment.

Sue Steven, head of Calderdale's vulnerable children's services, was seconded to the Department for Education and Skills for two years as regional co-ordinator for the improvement of children in care services.

In 2004 Calderdale was praised by the Audit Commission for improving school attendance and the attainment of looked-after children.

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