6:00am Friday 30th May 2014
Tragic Dana Baker put forward her own ideas about how to improve the care of foster children before she died - helping to spark a £5.5 million shake-up of Worcestershire County Council social services for young people.
An extra 30 qualified front-line social workers have now been recruited for children's social care and the service has been given a complete 'redesign'.
Councillor Liz Eyre, Worcestershire's cabinet member for children and families, would give no apology for the shortcomings in 16-year-old Dana's care criticised by Senior Worcestershire Coroner Geraint Williams.
But she expressed sympathy for the youngster's family, foster carers and friends.
"Dana's views informed the children's social care service redesign," said Councillor Mrs Eyre.
"The serious case review following Dana's death led to a number of other actions being taken, such as closer working with schools, a revised risk assessment process and more effective matching of young people with foster placements.
"All agencies, including ourselves, health services and the police, have and are improving how we work together."
Dana's family, in a statement released after the inquest, said they had heard evidence of changes that had been made by various agencies to avoid a similar tragedy in the future.
"We sincerely hope that changes will be made as a result of Dana's untimely and tragic death," said the statement, on behalf of Dana's 54-year-old father, Trevor, mother Patricia, 42, and grandmother, Cynthia Crompton, aged 65, who sat in the coroner's court for all 12 days of the inquest.
Dana was active in shaping social care services as a member of the county council 's 'Who Cares? We Care! Council', which represents the views of looked after children.
She had shared her experience and contributed to the service changes made, which led to £1.5 million of extra investment in children's social care during 2010 and a further £500,000 from April 2011.
Last year, the children's social care service was redesigned, with a further £3.5 million invested so that social workers can spend more time with families.
In 2010, a new 'Looked After Children Permanency Service' was developed and was being implemented at the time Dana died - aiming to provide greater consistency in support and fewer changes of social workers for children.
Although, like other authorities nationally, Worcestershire has suffered a shortage of social workers, the council has successfully recruited more and is working to keep staff with the right skills and experience.
Worcestershire County Council also says it has acted on recommendations from a serious case review into Dana's death, leading to training for teenagers' mental health and better risk assessments and risk management processes.
There is also a new framework to help 'match' young people appropriately with foster placements.
Councillor Mrs Eyre said: "There is no doubt that Dana always had social care and other professionals around her who cared for her.
"At the time of her death there were a significant number of professionals involved with her care.
"However, we see that we are the lead, co-ordinating agency with corporate parenting responsibility. Where we could have done better, we have made changes at the earliest opportunity.” Diana Fulbrook, independent chair of Worcestershire Safeguarding Children Board, which carried out a serious case review following Dana's death, said: "Dana and her family were known to a large number of agencies during Dana's troubled life.
"Dana was a young person with very complex needs and received considerable support from a range of agencies.
"However, the serious case review identified that the work of these agencies could have been joined up better, in particular in assessing and managing the risk that Dana posed to herself."
She added that much work had now been done in individual agencies, including the launch of a hotline for easier access to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and out of hours mental health support for people of all ages.
A support package has been put in place for 'looked after' children to receive extra help with their education and the Safeguarding Board has issued 'suicide prevention guidance', with a focus on teenagers.
*Any young people who are experiencing any similar issues to Dana or feel need help, should talk to someone they trust who can support them to access the right help. Alternatively, visit http://www.earlyhelphub.co.uk/ or call 01905 822666.
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