The afternoon part of the seminar was equally stimulating to the morning (see post below), with an emphasis on action - what can be done to improve data and information for disabled looked after children?
Dr Berni Kelly & Dr Sandra Dowling, from Queen’s University Belfast, presented on-going research about the lives of disabled children who are looked after in Northern Ireland. A core challenge in collecting prevalence data is the variations across 5 Health and Social Care Trusts in recording and service provision for disabled children.
Charlie Hogg and Sharon Glen, from the Scottish Government, explored national statistics for disabled looked after children in Scotland. Scotland is the only part of the UK to include information on disabled looked after children in annual national statistics. The speakers suggested at least five challenges for these statistics: the large number of ‘not known’ returns from local authorities, in regards to whether or not a child has a disability; whether the children returned as having disabilities in fact are assessed by a ‘qualified professional’ as required for the statistics; matching up the classification of disabilities with adult services’ classifications; how multiple disabilities are recorded; and how changes in individual children’s circumstances (e.g. impairments become evident, or a diagnosis is made) are recorded within local authorities, and thus included within the annual returns.
Both presentations pointed out the data regarding disabled looked after children are problematic. Longer-term planning, continuous and consistent data collection should be promoted and monitored.
Following intensive discussions, the seminar concluded with suggested action points. For example, a standardised definition of disability should be negotiated across services and jurisdictions. Governments and non-governmental organisations should co-operate to improve information of disabled looked after children on their presentation situation – as well as their placements and other outcomes – to assist in substantially improved planning.