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Looked After Children: Improving Life Chances

  • Wednesday, 05 December 2018
  • Manchester Conference Centre
  • 08:30 - 16:30
  • Overview

Latest government figures show that there are 72,000 children in care in England.

A recently published report surveyed 2,263 people that had been taken into local authority care. The responses revealed that for the majority (83%), being in care was a positive experience and had enhanced their wellbeing and improved their lives. However, the findings also highlighted areas that required improvements, such as communicating why the person has been taken into care, frequent changes in social workers and the feeling of not being listened to and decisions being made without consultation. 

To explore the challenges facing the care system and the children and young people it is designed to support, Open Forum Events are hosting the Looked After Children: Improving Life Chances conference.

The number of children entering care is at an all-time high with 90 young people entering the system every day. The majority of cases are due to parental abuse and neglect, however, household issues, such as poverty, poor housing and substance misuse are significantly contributing to the figures. There are claims that austerity, changes within the benefits system with the introduction of Universal Credit and the slashing of essential children and family services are partly responsible for the record number of children now living in care. 

Compared to their counterparts, children in care face a plethora of added issues. This vulnerable group are more likely to suffer abuse, become homeless, be teenage parents, be a young person not in education, employment or training (NEET), have mental health issues and be victims of exploitation. The challenge, regardless of the added risks and possible problems, is that these children and young people are offered the same opportunities to succeed in life as their peers. 

The Looked After Children: Improving Life Chances conference will offer delegates the opportunity to be fully briefed on the current situation within the care system and gain an update on the latest developments in terms of policy and funding. Guided by a line-up of expert speakers, the agenda will address some of the major child protection issues facing those entering the care system and examine the support needed to ensure that looked after children receive the best possible care and can look forward to a bright future.

Making the decision to take a child away from their family and place them in local authority care is never easy for all involved, however, for the young person it can be exceptionally difficult, distressing and obviously life-changing. Being a ‘looked after child’ presents a host of different scenarios that invoke a variety of responses.

The number of looked after children is increasing and the current figure is at an all-time high. The causes for the burgeoning numbers are numerous and complex, however, the squeeze on council budgets is thought to be compromising the provision of essential services, such as children’s centres, early intervention initiatives and support networks to identify vulnerable families and children at risk. This accelerates the direct involvement of children’s social services and the possibility of children being placed in local authority care. In 2016, three-quarters of English councils exceeded their budgets for children’s services with an overspend of £605m.

The government has responded by announcing a £20 million improvement plan for children’s social services to support vulnerable children. Funds have also been allocated to speed up and improve the adoption system and also to support young care leavers to transition from care to independent living.

Children in care are four more times likely to suffer from mental health conditions than their non-looked after peers. Dealing with a traumatic or chaotic upbringing, in which they may have experienced abuse or neglect, bereavement, disability or serious illness in one or both parents and possibly be from a disadvantaged background can certainly impact on wellbeing. Going into care can also be the cause of major and traumatic upheaval, impacting on emotional stability. Unfortunately, the mental health needs of these vulnerable children are often going unnoticed and unmet.

Child protection is a major consideration for looked after children. Whilst some children will have experienced abuse before entering care, there is a small proportion who experience abuse or neglect whilst in care. It is also estimated that 20 to 35% of children that are sexually exploited are in care and are also at risk of being exploited in other ways. such as drug mules by 'county lines' gangs.

A report from the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, "How the Home Office considers the ‘Best interests’ of Unaccompanied Asylum-seeking Children", has recently been published following an inspection in late 2017. The report looked into how the best interests of unaccompanied children are considered during the processes and decision making relating to their claim for asylum. It concluded that there were consistent and regular failures in Home Office practice and made several recommendations for improvement.

There are many ways in which the lives of young people experiencing the care system can be improved.

Providing the support and safeguarding to enable families to stay together, rather than transferring the child to the care of the local authority is hugely beneficial. Improving the adoption and fostering processes and providing support for prospective parents can also help to provide stable, loving environments in a timelier manner. Promoting the opportunities for kinship care, where children can live with extended family members, will again offer children the chance to live in a family setting.

Leaving care can be a daunting prospect for young people. There is a danger they fall between the gaps in service provision, making them more likely to become homeless, become a NEET or an offender. In February, Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi announced up to £5 million for three new Social Impact Bond projects to support care leavers into education, employment or training. He also announced the delivery partner for the Care Leaver Covenant, which offers a platform for organisations to pledge their support for young people as they face the challenges of leaving care.

The Looked After Children: Improving Life Chances conference will explore all the issues and discuss the way forward to ensure that the life chances of a child or young person in care are not diminished because of the circumstances in which they find themselves.

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  • Confirmed Speakers

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  • Event Programme


Registration and Coffee in the Networking Area


Chair’s Opening Address

  • Joanna Hunt, Area Manager, Greater Manchester, Children's Society (confirmed)

Keynote Address

  • Steve McCabe MP, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Looked After Children and Care Leavers (confirmed)
"Bright Futures - Providing Equal Opportunities for Children in Care"

Children in care have the same right as any other young person to feel safe, secure and happy. Their hopes for the present and expectations for future success should not be diminished because of the circumstances in which they find themselves.

  • Eleanor Briggs, Head of Policy and Research, Action for Children (confirmed)
"Exploring the Reasons Why Record Numbers of Children are in Care?"

Recent data from the Department of Education shows a continuing rise in the number of children in care. On the 31 March 2018 there were over 75,000 children in care, an increase of 4% from the year before, and 17% since 2010. This presentation explores the reasons behind this trend and looks at key factors for policymakers to consider.



Dr Clare Nuttall, Team Manager, Solar LAC Team, Solar, Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust (confirmed) 

Kate Bunting, Operations and Community Engagement Manager, Solihull Library Service, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council (confirmed)

"Improving Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing in Partnership: The Chelmsley Wood Reading Den"

The Chelmsley Wood Reading Den is a library-based resource of books, audio-CDs, and DVDs, specifically chosen to support the needs of looked after and adopted children and young people and their carers and parents. Delivered in partnership between the Solihull Library Service and Solar, the emotional wellbeing and mental health service for children and young people in Solihull, the Reading Den aims to offer specialist resources in an accessible and non-stigmatising setting. These resources include books to educate and inform foster carers and parents, as well as books for children and caregivers to read together to help nurture relationships and support children’s emotional wellbeing through facilitating conversations about thoughts feelings and experiences, both ordinary and more difficult.


Case Study

  • Emma Popo, Implementation Manager, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) (confirmed)
  • Tracey Swithenbank, Consultant Social Worker, The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) (confirmed)
"Making the right decision for looked after children – an evidence informed framework"

How do we make the right decisions for children and young people in care? What are the challenges when considering the return home for a Looked After child or young person? Return home practice remains an area that could benefit from more focus and discussion. This session will share personal experiences of using the Reunification Practice Framework with families and consider the benefits and challenges when implementing the framework across an organisation.


Question and Answer Session


Coffee in the Networking Area

  • Carol Hardy, Senior CAMHS Clinical Specialist, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (confirmed)
  • Elizabeth Murphy, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist , South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (confirmed)
"Social-Emotional Assessment and Intervention for Looked After Children, 0-4 years – Findings from Clinical Research Studies within a LAC CAMHS Team."

In both a pilot project (2010-11) and follow up feasibility study (S.U.S.I; 2014-17), an infant mental health assessment and intervention model was developed and delivered in an assertive outreach approach to Looked After babies, young children and their parents/carers. Target populations included children who were: Looked After; on a Child Protection Plan; and children of parents engaged with mental health services.
A description of the type and level of social-emotional, relational and general developmental difficulties identified will be presented, along with intervention outcomes and models of inter-agency work across Social Care, Health and 3rd Sector).


  • Nancy Sayer, Designated Consultant Nurse for Looked After Children - Kent, Thanet CCG (confirmed)
"Considering the Needs and Best Interests of Unaccompanied Asylum-seeking Children"

The needs and circumstances of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children share many of the characteristics of other looked after UK children but in many other respects they are quite different. Unaccompanied asylum seeking children are not only separated from their family but also from their community and country of origin and are seeking refuge from political, cultural, religious or other forms of persecution including armed conflict and war. 


Young people who have experience of being in care, The Children's Society (confirmed)

"Our Top Tips"

Top ten tips to making life in care a great experience. The three young people will deliver their tips and ask these to be embedded across organisations.


Question and Answer Session


Lunch in the Networking Area


Chair’s Afternoon Address


Panel Debate

Joanna Hunt, Area Manager, Greater Manchester, Children's Society  (confirmed)

Peter McNamara, Virtual School Headteacher (Interim), Virtual School Rotherham, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (confirmed)

Phil McVay, Managing Director, ClearCare   (confirmed)


"Co Operation, Communication, Collaboration"

This panel debate will discuss how cooperation can be improved, address the barriers that hinder multi-agency communication and explore how to overcome the challenges of collaborative working to deliver improved outcomes for children.

  • Peter McNamara, Virtual School Headteacher (Interim), Virtual School Rotherham, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (confirmed)
"Virtual Schools"

Main Sponsor

  • Ruth Davies, Head of Looked After Call, Looked After Call (Contact Group) (confirmed)
"Integrated Solutions to Improve Communications"

With reduced resources and increasing demand for data, having all your systems in one place reduces the time spent duplicating data and the possibility of data handling errors. Working together to increase communication between stakeholders to improve learning outcomes for LAC.


Question and Answer Session


Afternoon Refreshment Break

"Supporting Care Leavers "

At 18, young care leavers are more likely to not be in employment, education or training, be socially excluded or homeless or have come into contact with the criminal justice system. Making the transition to independent living can be challenging and there is a danger of these young people slipping through gaps between services. Support is needed to ensure care leavers have the necessary skills to successfully move on with their lives.

"Hear Our Voice"

What is it like to be a child taken into care? Whilst professionals and statutory bodies make decisions in good faith, it is the children and young people who are most qualified to describe their experiences and explain their needs and wants.


Question and Answer Session


Chair’s Closing Remarks and Event Close

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  • Importance of Schools in the Children and Young People’s Mental Health System

    • Posted on 01 December 2017
    • by Professor Dame Sue Bailey OBE
  • Improving the Whole Children and Young People’s Mental Health System

    • Posted on 25 November 2016




Manchester Conference Centre

Manchester Conference Centre

Manchester Conference Centre is the ideal solution when searching for conference venues in Manchester. Top-of-the-range conference suites, 3 star value hotel accommodation, delicious dining and friendly service are the ideal components for a successful conference or event in the heart of the city centre.

The 18 conference rooms are decked out with all the mod cons including state-of-the-art AV technology, projectors and screens, free Wi-Fi and flip charts. Our clients cover the whole spectrum and include government organisations, trade unions, large corporate companies, non-profit organisations, health and education sectors and small to medium-sized businesses.

From the get-go we strive for excellence in everything we do and our dedicated team of conference professionals go all out to make sure your conference, event or exhibition runs like clockwork.

Featured Events

  • Safeguarding Children: Finding Solutions for Better Protection

    • 24 May 2018
    • 08:30 - 16:30
    • The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
  • Safeguarding Children: Effective Collaboration for Child Protection and Wellbeing

    • 11 May 2017
    • 08:30 - 16:30
    • The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
  • Children and Young People's Mental Health: Improving Care, Treatment and Support

    • 12 December 2017
    • 08:30 - 16:30
    • The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
  • Children and Young People’s Mental Health: Promoting Integration and Early Intervention

    • 08 December 2016
    • 08:30 - 16:30
    • Manchester Conference Centre
  • Safeguarding Children: Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation

    • 22 April 2015
    • 08:30 - 13:30
    • The Place Aparthotel, Manchester
  • Children and Young People's Mental Health: Providing Effective Support

    • 03 July 2018
    • 08:30 - 17:00
    • The Royal National Hotel, London
  • Children and Young People’s Mental Health: Taking Early Action

    • 06 July 2017
    • 08:30 - 16:30
    • The Royal National Hotel, London

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  • Open Forum Events Sponsorship Brochure
    Open Forum Events offer a number of partnership, sponsorship and exhibition opportunities that can meet your marketing and business development needs.
  • Presentations

who will attend

  • 14-19 Partnership Teams
  • Academics and Researchers
  • Director/Heads Adoption and Fostering Agencies
  • Anti-Social Behaviour Co-ordinators
  • Asylum and Immigration Officers
  • Care Leavers Champions
  • Central Government Departments and Agencies
  • Child and Adolescent Mental Health Practitioners
  • Child and Educational Psychologists
  • Child Protection and Safeguarding Teams
  • Child Protection Officers
  • Children’s Health Service Professionals
  • Children’s Services Officers
  • Heads of Children’s Trusts and Children’s Centres
  • Commissioning Managers
  • Community and Voluntary Organisations
  • Community Development Managers
  • Director/Heads Connexions and Jobcentre Plus
  • Director/Heads Corporate Parenting Boards
  • Designated Nurses and Health Advisors for Children in Care
  • Director/Heads Local Education Authorities
  • Director/Heads Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards
  • Director/Heads Local, Regional and National Health Services
  • Director/Heads Looked After/Children in Care Teams
  • Director/Heads NEET Strategy Teams
  • Director/Heads Permanency Teams
  • Director/Heads Regional Adoption Agencies
  • Director/Heads Welfare Rights Organisations
  • Directors/Heads of Children and Young People’s Services
  • Domestic Violence Co-ordinators
  • Director/Heads Drug and Alcohol Action Teams
  • Early Years and Childcare Practitioners
  • Education and Welfare Officers
  • Education Providers
  • Director/Heads Employment and Training Services
  • Families Services Officers
  • Family Intervention Project Workers
  • Family Pathfinder Workers
  • Family Placement Teams
  • Family Support and Outreach Team Leads
  • Heads of Children’s Strategy Members of Health and Wellbeing Boards
  • Director/Heads Homelessness Teams
  • Director/Heads Housing Service Providers
  • Local Authority Officers and Councillors
  • Looked-After Children Team Managers
  • Members of Police and Fire Service
  • Mental Health Practitioners
  • Post Adoption Support Services Leads
  • Psychotherapists
  • Residential Children’s Home Managers
  • School Nurses and Health Visitors
  • Schools, Colleges and Further Education Providers
  • Social Workers and Social Services Officers
  • Director/Heads Supported Housing Teams
  • Teachers and Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators
  • Teenage Pregnancy Co-ordinators
  • Third Sector Representatives
  • Youth Inclusion Teams
  • Youth Workers and Youth Offending Teams