Since the creation of the network in 2005, Buckinghamshire Community Childminding Network (BCCN) has supported care for over 2000 vulnerable children, young people and their families as part of Buckinghamshire’s Early Help strategy.
BCCN was originally conceived to support children with a disability or additional needs. But in the past 10 years, it has become an effective service for supporting children and young people who may be at risk of harm, have parents or siblings with profound health and or mental health issues, and those at risk of entering the care system.
The Social Worker reported that she really valued the positive and professional relationship that has developed with BCCN over time. The ‘can do’ attitude and high level of professionalism makes me not hesitate to contact the service on behalf of the children and families that she supports.
Children and Teenagers Community Help carers
BCCN childminders can also become Children and Teenagers Community Help (Catch) carers.
This sees them working with the Catch team, supporting young people over the age of 11. Young people refererred to Catch may be experiencing issues related to their family nearing the point of breakdown, or they themselves experiencing difficulties that are presenting the family with significant issues.
The young person stays with the childminder while work is being done with the Catch team and the family to avoid entire family breakdown. Care is for a maximum of 28 nights with the aim of avoiding the young person being accommodated in local authority care.
BCCN provide and invaluable service to families that need some extra support and work very closely and effectively with partner agencies to make sure that needs of families are met.
We currently have 31 childminders across the county who were specially selected through a process of interview and assessment before becoming members of the network. These childminders care for children through BCCN alongside their private contracts.
Making a referral
Referrals are made into the service from social care, health visitors, family support workers and other professionals working with vulnerable families.
[We were] able to liaise with the childminder to organise the care, both children cared for at different times to support their development of independence, they were happy to go to their carers. This allowed us to have some time as a couple and gives us a mental break.
The PACEY team supports the BCCN panel to consider the information in the referral and, when care is agreed, match the family with the most suitable childminder. The care is then organised and put in place.
In some cases those referrals made through social care and children with disabilities are long term contracts. Some have been in place since the project began 10 years ago, others referred through health visitors and children’s centre’s are short term.
Short term care is initially put in place for eight weeks, with a review towards the end of the contract. The review considers evaluations on the outcome of the care, whether objectives were met, and a decision is made about whether the care should continue, or if the contract should finish.
Most recently we have seen a rise in referrals for children who need respite care.This may be necessary if their parent is suffering from mental health issues for example. Respite care for serious illness, occasionally terminal, can often mean that the care arrangement remains in place for a longer period.
The care provided is considered to be preventative rather than long term, and is there to support families to overcome the issues that they are experiencing. Care may also be provided to accommodate appointments for parents' health issues, therapy or help sessions, prison visits or court hearings, for example.
The respite care has improved my mental strength and reduced my physical exhaustion. The quality of the childcare is first class so I can literally drop my boys off and enjoy some much needed time to myself without having any nagging worries or concerns.
Keeping on top of training
The childminders who are part of the BCCN network are required to attend training throughout the year. Three days' training is a minimum membership requirement for the network. The BCCN team source training designed to develop the members’ skills and knowledge in reaction or preparation to meet the needs of the children and young people that are referred.
The PACEY team carries out individual support visits each quarter to discuss the childminder's setting and practice. An annual review with the childminder also forms part of their self-evaluation and a way to look to the future and provide general support where needed.
Recognising the importance of teamwork, a whole network annual review day takes place to celebrate achievements and the support provided to troubled families across the county.