Aberdeenshire's children's homes receive praise

Aberdeenshire Council's children's homes have been praised in an annual report following inspections by the Care Inspectorate.

In terms of quality of care and support, all three were rated 5 'Very Good'. Of those inspected on quality of environment, again both were rated Very Good and the other which was inspected on quality of management and leadership also received a 5 rating.  

The service has noted a number of positive outcomes in the past year, including seeing those who had become looked after in children’s homes returning to education. Some had either poor or non-existent school attendance previously, but all resumed their education during the course of their residence with the local authority. 

Head of Children’s Services Leigh Jolly explained: "I would like to thank all of our dedicated staff in our children’s homes who go above and beyond to provide a safe, loving and nurturing environment for everyone we care for.

“We still have some young people who struggle in their school and require additional or flexible support, but we have a well-established culture in each of our homes that young people are expected to engage in education. Some started in college courses after the summer break and others have returned to school.” 

Meanwhile, the homes have worked closely with the Aberdeenshire Tobacco Alliance Group during the year which has seen staff teams participating in training events. Leigh added: "Over the years we have changed how we manage smoking within the homes to ensure that our young people are afforded a healthy and smoke free environment. 

"The homes are now smoke-free, and no-one is allowed to smoke on the grounds. The staff team also have appropriate skills and training to support young people to make positive choices around smoking and to support them to quit smoking if this is their goal."

Ensuring looked after children are afforded the same access to extra curricular activities as their peers is also a key focus for children’s homes teams. A number of the young people have been supported over the year to take part in community group activities including mixed martial arts, boxing, Army Cadets and archery. Many of them have also engaged in an independent living programme, covering things like cooking, budgeting skills and learning how to use public transport.

And in these days of ever-developing technology, a key aspect for the young people has been the demand for Wi-Fi. They are now enjoying Wi-Fi access and as Leigh explained: "The Wi-Fi has safeguards in place to ensure our young people cannot access inappropriate material. Supporting young people to manage their use of social media safely is a challenge for the majority of parents and carers. It is important that we set appropriate boundaries, in the same way as any parent does for their own children.”

Councillor Gillian Owen, Chair of the Education and Children's Services Committee, said: "This has been a largely positive year for all three of the homes. The majority of our young people have been supported along with their families to make and sustain significant changes in their lives. 

"Our staff are committed to continuing to build strong relationships with our young people to enable them to be the best they can be and to have the same opportunities as their peers. All three children’s homes continue to ensure that the voice of children, young people and their families inform their improvement journey to ensure that we really are getting it right for every child."

Vice Chair Cllr Rosemary Bruce praised the care homes for their outstanding level of service and commitment to the young people.

She said: "Staff in our children's homes work tirelessly in some very challenging circumstances to provide a home for young people at what can be a traumatic time in the life of a young person. They all deserve our greatest thanks and admiration for all they do."