Children go into care for a variety of reasons, but one common thing is that the Council becomes their Corporate Parent. Put simply, this means taking collective responsibility (council, councillors, employees, and partner agencies) for providing the best possible care and safeguarding for the children who are looked after by the council.
Every good parent wants the best for their child, they want them to be happy, healthy, safe, supported, encouraged, and inspired. A good Corporate Parent makes sure this is provided to all children in their care, as they all deserve to be cared about not just cared for!
I work with councils and their elected councillors to improve their understanding of the term Corporate Parent, and the positive impact that they can make. It’s a really tricky concept for councillors to understand, as they don’t deliver the care direct, and rely on their officers. Instead, the role of a councillor is to challenge and support their officers, and by asking would it be good enough for their own children.
One of the key takeaways from my support to them is that the council cannot ‘parent' in isolation. They need the support of staff within the council, and their partner organisations such as the NHS, Police, Voluntary Sector, Carers, young people, and of course Schools. Section 10 of the Children Act 2004 defines a list of relevant partners, which includes governing boards.
As a school governor in a secondary academy and pupil referral unit, I am very mindful that I am one of these partners, and that I can help to ensure that children in care get the best possible education that they can. However, I know that this is not commonly understood and that some of my fellow school governors won’t understand the influential role that they have in supporting children in care and care leavers; and in being a good Corporate Parent!
All children in care attend school and deserve a good education. Whilst, there is a Virtual School Head that oversees education for all children in care, as a governor, you have responsibility for their educational outcomes, as you do for all children in your schools.
As a governor, you have the opportunity to be more curious about outcomes for the children in care that attend your school, by:
Understanding whether there are children in care in your school, and finding out which member of staff has designated responsibility for their wellbeing;
Ensuring that the school has high aspirations for children in care, by understanding what strategies there are to support them to do as well as other children;
Identifying if there is a gap in performance?
Finding out about the statutory obligations of schools towards their children in care, and if your school is meeting these?
Asking about training for school staff; is there a good understanding amongst teaching and pastoral staff of the particular issues that children in care face?
Receiving regular reports at meetings on children in care and using this to challenge performance;
Asking about the careers advice provided to them and the availability of employment / work experience.
All children deserve a decent education, and as a corporate parent, governors share the responsibility for children in care. Make good use of this by constantly asking the most powerful question that any Corporate Parent and school governor can ask is: ‘Would it be good enough for my own child?’
Insight to Impact Consulting Ltd is an award-winning governance improvement organisation that provides specialist training, guidance, and support to strengthen governance, partnership and team working.
Our founder, Su Turner, has over 30 years’ experience in strategic, policy, governance, and partnership roles in the public sector. She is an experienced governor and non-executive, and is currently Chair of a Pupil Referral Unit, and Secondary Academy, a National Leader of Governance, and a Non-Executive for a large GP Federation in the North West.
Su works with many councils helping them to become good Corporate Parents, and has a proven track record for impact.
"Su was instrumental in getting our recent ILACS (Inspection of Local Authority Children's Services) to good"