Agenda and minutes

Corporate Parenting Panel - Thursday, 19th July, 2018 10.00 am

Venue: Darent Room, Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone. View directions

Contact: Theresa Grayell  03000 416172

No. Item


Motion to exclude the press and public for exempt business


RESOLVED that, under Section 100A of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraphs 1 and 2 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act.


EXEMPT ITEMS (open access to minutes)


The views of Young People in Care

When the agenda for this meeting was being published, it was unclear whether or not a party of young people would be available to attend the start of the meeting to speak to the Panel about their experiences of being in care.  If such a visit proves possible, the first part of the meeting will be closed to the public.


If any change of circumstances is known before the date of the meeting, a revised agenda will be published.   


As it had not proved possible to arrange a party of young people to attend the first part of the meeting, a film which had been made at participation and activity days earlier in 2018 was shown instead. 


The film showed children in care enjoying singing, dancing and circus skills at activity days, with a voiceover by the participants and the VSK apprentices who had arranged the events and made the film. 


Reece Graves, Virtual School Kent Apprentice, told the Panel how the film had been made and thanked the County Council’s IT team for their help with editing.  


The Chairman said it was always good to hear about the activities and networking opportunities that young people enjoyed at meetings of the various Children in Care Councils, and to be able to see and share the events was most enjoyable. She thanked the Virtual School Kent Apprentices for their work in setting up events and in filming them to share with the Panel.  

UNRESTRICTED ITEMS (meeting open to the press and public)


Apologies and Substitutes


Apologies form absence had been received from Trudy Dean, Louise Fisher, Sue Gent, Stuart Griffiths, Geoff Lymer and Shellina Prendergast.


Matthew Balfour was present as a substitute for Shellina Prendergast and James McInroy as a substitute for Sue Gent.  


Minutes of the meeting of the Panel held on 1 June 2018 pdf icon PDF 159 KB

Additional documents:


It was RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 1 June 2018 are correctly recorded and they be signed by the Chairman.  There were no matters arising.


Chairman's Announcements


The Chairman welcomed Sarah Vaux, Chief Nurse of Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, and Nicola Anthony, Interim Head of Fostering, to their first meeting of the Panel. 


The Chairman advised the Panel that plans were in hand to invite a new foster carer representative to join the Panel in place of Carolyn Moody. 


The Chairman told Reece Graves that she had heard very good feedback from a Youth Advisory Group about his contribution at a recent conference.     


Verbal Update from Our Children and Young People's Council (OCYPC)


1.            Sophia Dunstan, Participation Support Assistant, and Reece Graves, Virtual School Kent Apprentice, showed a second film, made by the Virtual School Kent (VSK) Apprentices, about work to counter the stigmas of being in care. This had been shown at the VSK Talent Showcase on 1 June 2018, with the aim of emphasising the skills, interests and hobbies of children in care and that their care status played no part in how they defined themselves.    


2.            They then gave a verbal update on the work of the OCYPC, the Super Council and Young Adult Council and forthcoming participation events. The text of the update will be attached to these minutes. They and Tony Doran, Head Teacher of the VSK, then responded to comments and questions from the Panel, including the following:-


a)    a recent Young Adult Council meeting had raised the issue of the need for a new name for the care leavers service, and it was planned that a competition be held to find a new name;


b)    two new VSK Apprentices were shortly to start work; Tia (16) would start at the end of July and Rob (19) would hopefully start shortly after;  


c)    a list of participation events taking place between July and December was tabled, with an invitation to the annual Children in Care Council Summer Celebration on 1 August 2018, and both were later circulated to all Panel members by the Democratic Services Officer. Mr Doran explained that VSK had a small nominal budget to cover events, which had been generously topped up over the years by elected Members, using their personal allowances;


d)    when tackling stigma, it was important to achieve a balance between being a good corporate parent and respecting a young person’s privacy, between making reasonable allowances for someone’s care status and not putting them down because of it.  Ms Dunstan explained that one-to-one sessions between a teacher and child in care could lead to more stigma.  What would help was group sessions of pupils and teachers;


e)    teachers needed to be aware of children in care, appreciate their circumstances and be realistic about their expectations of them. This awareness could be included in teacher training courses.  A child in care would be visited at school by their social worker for their regular review meetings, so to keep their care status a secret from teaching staff or other pupils in the class was simply not possible;


f)      another speaker disagreed and asserted that teachers should not know which pupils in their school were in care, and, in that way, could not show any bias in the way in which they treated them, or the expectations they had of them. Teacher training in the 1980s would have taken this approach but the culture seemed since to have changed to one of teachers being made aware. This had led to children in care being treated differently. Another speaker, who had also trained as a teacher at about the same time, agreed that, once a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 90.


Challenge Card update - Lifelong Links pdf icon PDF 85 KB


Claire Barton, Family Group Conferencing team, was in attendance for this item.


1.            Caroline Smith, Interim Assistant Director, Corporate Parenting,  and Ms Barton introduced the report and gave some examples of the sort of links which had been established using the Lifelong Links project. They responded to comments and questions from the Panel, including the following:-


a)    one benefit of the project was that it could help children and young people to be clear of their identity and understand their route into the care system.  They could be supported to own and manage their care status;


b)    many children in care were known to try to trace relatives using Facebook, but the Lifelong Links project offered them a safer way to trace and make contact; and


c)    the Lifelong Links project had been established very quickly after being the subject of a Challenge Card, and Matt Dunkley, Corporate Director, Children, Young People and Education, thanked the team for their swift work in setting it up.  The project was an example of the sensible and achievable measures which could be put into place as a result of the Challenge Card process.


2.            The Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Education, Roger Gough, expressed his support for the Lifelong Links project.


3.            Referring to a previous Challenge Card, the rent guarantor scheme for private rents and university accommodation, Sarah Hammond, Director of Integrated Children’s Services(East) advised the Panel that the scheme had now launched its pilot with a cohort of 25 young people.  She clarified that the scheme was not for paying deposits on property as this was already an established practice, but to support young people as they established themselves as tenants.  Ms Smith added that Kent’s guarantor scheme had been very well received by other local authorities, and some, including Medway Council, were looking into establishing something similar. More detail of the way in which the County Council supported young people leaving care would be covered in the report on accommodation options at item 10 on the agenda (see minute 95 below). 


4.         It was RESOLVED that:


a)    the progress of the Lifelong Links project be welcomed;


b)    the availability of the Lifelong Links project to all Kent children and young people in care who meet the criteria be noted;


c)    an update report on the project be submitted to a future meeting of the Panel.  


Verbal Update by Cabinet Member pdf icon PDF 42 KB


1.            The Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Education, Roger Gough, gave a verbal update on the following issues:-


Private Fostering Week – this aimed to publicise and promote the arrangement wherein young people could be cared for by adults who were not part of their immediate family, rather than being placed with foster carers employed by the County Council. The County Council needed to be notified of such an arrangement being made so it could verify that the arrangement was suitable for the young person concerned and provide appropriate support. In the last twelve months, the County Council had received 94 such notifications. 

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) figures these remained low (and were lower than in the same period in 2017) but with the small rise that was normally expected over the warmer summer months while travel was easier. There had been 20 referrals in June and 6 so far in July. Many of the most recent arrivals had been from Eritrea. There were currently 227 UASC in the care of the County Council and 886 UASC aged 18 and over.

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) Conference - 28 June 2018 – this had taken place at Oakwood House and had been a very useful opportunity for Kent to share its experiences of caring for UASC with other local authorities and for them to learn from Kent’s approach. Two former asylum seeking young people had spoken well at the conference, including a young man who had previously presented to the Panel.     

Care Leaver Progression Partnership Conference- late June – Mr Gough had opened this conference and taken the opportunity to promote the Lifelong Links project and Kent’s rent guarantor scheme.  The conference had also discussed stigma and expectations, with the message that high expectations could be delivered.   Two very successful former children in care, one from the USA and one from the UK, had spoken.  The speaker from the USA was from Illinois, which, incidentally, had a very similar care population to the whole of England.

VSK Talent Showcase – 1 June 2018 – this had been excellent, and was much enjoyed by those who attended.

Awareness of corporate parenting role of elected Members – work was in hand to boost the understanding of the corporate parenting role beyond those Members who served on either the Corporate Parenting Panel or the Children, Young People and Education Cabinet Committee and to help them to be the best corporate parents they could be.


2.            It was RESOLVED that the verbal updates be noted, with thanks.  




Performance Scorecard for Children in Care pdf icon PDF 79 KB

Additional documents:


Maureen Robinson, Management Information Service Manager, was in attendance for this item.


1.            Mrs Robinson introduce the report and explained that all of the services were performing above the floor standard and that none had a red rating.


2.            It was RESOLVED that the performance data in the children in care scorecard be noted and welcomed.


The National Fostering Stocktake - Foster Care in England: a review for the Department for Education by Sir Martin Narey and Mark Owers - February 2018, and the County Council's Fostering Service Business Plan, 2018 - 2019 pdf icon PDF 111 KB

Additional documents:


Nicola Anthony, Interim Head of Fostering, was in attendance for this item.


1.            Ms Smith introduced the report of the Stocktake undertaken by Martin Narey and Mark Owers. She and Ms Anthony responded to comments and questions from the Panel, including the following:-


a)    asked if it was still the aim to keep sibling groups together, as Mr Narey seemed to be suggesting that this practice not always be followed, Ms Smith explained that the hope was that siblings would always be kept together, if at all possible. However, for practical reasons, it was occasionally necessary to separate a larger family to find suitable placements. When a family came into care, an early assessment was made and a care plan drawn up for each child.  Babies and very young children were more likely to be adopted, so would be placed with this ultimate aim in mind, while older siblings were harder to adopt and so would be more likely to stay together in foster care. Practically, larger groups of siblings were harder than smaller groups to place together;


b)    concern was expressed that older siblings would have developed the role of looking after their younger siblings and would wish to be able to continue this familiar arrangement.  Ms Smith pointed out that some older siblings may have taken on the parenting role of younger siblings as a necessity due to the shortcomings of their own parents, and such an arrangement, although familiar, may not be in the best interests of the older child as they would miss out on their own childhood. Ms Smith assured the Panel that siblings would always be able to maintain contact with each other, in a way which best suited them. Decisions about placement and contact would always be made on a case-by-case basis. Ms Anthony added that the Council was seeking to recruit foster carers who were able to take on sibling groups so more could be kept together, as long as that was judged to be in the children’s best interests. Mrs Hammond added that only Kent children were placed with Kent foster carers;


c)    regret was expressed that County Councillors no longer served on Adoption Panels, as this had given Members an opportunity to understand how adoption decisions were made.  Those who had previously served on Adoption Panels spoke about the huge commitment required in preparing for and attending Adoption Panels and the difficult nature of the issues being discussed there, for which elected Members, as lay people, were not always prepared. Ms Smith advised that it was the court process, not the Adoption Panels, which decided which sibling groups were to be split when making placements, and such decisions were made only after a full assessment had been made. Mrs Hammond added that judging which families would be better split and which would not was a difficult role, but useful research had recently been undertaken into permanency planning. She suggested that a report presenting this research be submitted to a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 94.


Report on the types of accommodation for Children in Care and Care Leavers pdf icon PDF 111 KB


Paul Startup, Head of Care Leavers 18 plus Service., was in attendance for this item.


1.            Ms Smith and Mr Startup introduced the report and, with Ms Hammond, responded to comments and questions from the Panel, including the following:-


a)    accommodation for care leavers was monitored and inspected by the County Council, and personal advisors would visit young people regularly to see if they had any concerns about their tenancy or any problems with their accommodation.  The County Council would always challenge a landlord where there were concerns about the maintenance or condition of a property;  


b)    the reference to ‘residence not known’ on the list of accommodation types and the numbers of young people in them referred to young people who were missing.  This number included those missing in the short- and long-term and consisted largely of UASC over 18 who had gone to find family elsewhere in the UK within 24 hours of arriving in Kent.  Kent retained responsibility for them even if they had taken themselves to another local authority area. Other young people who were included in the number were those who had chosen not to stay connected to their foster carers once they reached an age when they felt able to go where they wanted and do what they wanted;


c)    the range of accommodation available was welcomed, and a suggestion made that the Panel receive the information on a regular basis, perhaps annually;


d)    using a combination of in-house and IFAs, Kent was not necessarily able to meet all young people’s needs at all times, and the large number of UASC who had arrived at the peak of 2015 had meant that IFAs had to be used more than they previously had been, and many of these UASC were still in the foster placements made at that time. Some placements would have been made if Kent was unable to accommodate a child with special needs, for example, for which the only local provider might be someone available through an IFA. However, Kent accommodated the highest percentage of its care population with its own in-house foster carers than any other authority in the UK; and


e)    the Chairman suggested that the County Council could look at its own housing stock or estate to see if some premises might be suitable for use to accommodate care leavers. Some premises were used to provide training in household management, cooking, etc, for young people who were about to leave care.


2.            Mr Startup advised the Panel that the County Council’s new rent guarantor scheme had overcome some initial hurdles and was now starting to make progress. He had been liaising with letting agencies but some of these had been unused to working with a large local authority as guarantor and had initially been hesitant, being unfamiliar with the role of a corporate parent.


3.            It was RESOLVED that the information set out in the report and given in response to comments and questions be noted, with thanks,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 95.