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One in four severely absent kids ‘rejected’ for social care support

Referrals to social care services for one in four “severely absent” pupils resulted in “no further action”, prompting calls for more help from wider support services to tackle the attendance crisis.

A new report by the children’s commissioner has exposed “substantial variation” in support across the country for children involved in social care.

The rate of children having no further action taken (NFA) after a referral to children’s services varied from between 1.6 per cent in one area, to 63 per cent in another, analysis od data from 2021-22 showed.

In these cases, the social workers decided the children did not meet the threshold for intervention by services, although they may have been offered early help, the report added.

The average NFA rate nationally was 32 per cent – suggesting various thresholds for support, the report said.

The report found, “staggeringly”, that for a quarter of children classed as “severely absent” – missing more than half of school sessions – and referred to children’s services led to NFA.

“Tackling the root causes of poor school attendance will need a joined-up approach, with interventions within school supplemented by support for the whole family,” the report added.

“It is concerning that so many children struggling with attendance, where partner agencies have identified a need for more intensive help, are not getting it.”

‘Postcode lottery’ for children in need plans

The report also found a “postcode lottery” for children in need plans. In one council, 70 per cent of children involved with children’s social care were on child in need plans, while in another it was as low as 3.6 per cent.

Variability in support for the 106,000 children on child in need plans – who are often “highly vulnerable” – was also uncovered.

“This suggests a much more consistent model is needed, with complete clarity about what the children’s social care input should be for children with high levels of educational need,” the report added.

De Souza echoed recommendations from her children missing education report last month.

This included training social workers in “educational neglect”, banning home education for children with a social worker and giving virtual school heads powers to direct admissions for children in need.

“Getting the right support when children need it will not only help to make their lives happier and healthier but can also prevent things escalating to the point where a child might need to be taken into care,” she said.

The Department for Education was approached for comment.

 

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