Agenda and minutes

Corporate Parenting Panel - Thursday, 9th April, 2015 1.00 pm

Venue: Swale 1, Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone. View directions

Contact: Theresa Grayell  03000 416172

Note: The first part of this meeting will not be open to the press and public 

No. Item


The Panel 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 paragraph 1 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act.



The Views of Young People in Care - discussion


The Chairman introduced the purpose of the discussion session, ie to seek to identify how corporate parents can make a difference for children and young people in care. The Clerk explained that the session had been closed to the press and public so that personal information could be discussed.


The session was attended by a number of young people representing Our Children and Young People’s Council (OCYPC), being currently or previously in care, accompanied by Virtual School Kent (VSK) Apprentices Amelia, Bella, Chris and Matt, Sarah Skinner (Service Business Manager, VSK) and Sarah Hammond (Assistant Director of Specialist Children’s Services, West Kent). 


Those around the table introduced themselves. The Clerk informed those present that their comments about their experiences of being in care would be recorded but assured them their names would not be.


The Chairman opened the discussion by setting out a number of issues that the Panel had heard about, for instance young people’s relationships with their social workers, the rate of change of social worker, and issues around leaving care. 


In this record of the discussion, questions and comments from the Panel are shown in italics and comments from young people are shown as bullet points. Information given by officers and VSK Apprentices is attributed to them by name.


When a social worker changes, you have to get to know a new one and tell them about all sorts of personal issues. Do you feel that they respect the personal things that you tell them? 


How can we address the issue of frequent change and the need to establish a new relationship? 


·         When there has to be a change, perhaps we could be given a social worker that we have dealt with before. They will know us and be familiar with the problems that we have.


·         It seems that, to a social worker, I am just a number.  My social worker was awful; they forgot important information. I do my own budgeting at my supported lodgings but the social worker forgot to give me the money I was supposed to have.  The lady I lodge with leant me some money to buy my groceries. When I had to deal with the police, when my bike was stolen, my social worker was late coming to the police station to support me.


What is the arrangement in the event of an emergency?  Is there a hotline you can ring for advice?


Once you are allocated a social worker, could that person keep in touch for the whole time you are in care, so that you stay connected; for example, they would attend your annual reviews?


·         Which social worker would be this long-term contact?  Would this be the first one we were allocated, or would we be allowed to choose which one we wanted to stay connected to, ie one that we felt most comfortable with?


·         Yes, I think that sort of arrangement would help.  But my new social worker was very good, really ‘on the ball’, and I trust  ...  view the full minutes text for item 68.



Membership - increasing the number of Virtual School Kent (VSK) apprentices/Our Children and Young People's Council (OCYPC) representatives co-opted on to the Panel

It is proposed that the number of seats offered to Virtual School Kent Apprentices and representatives of Our Children and Young People’s Council be increased to three.


1.            The Chairman proposed that three seats on the Panel be offered to co-opted representatives of young people in care, in place of the current single seat.


2.                  RESOLVED that the number of seats on the Panel offered to co-opted  representatives of young people in care be increased from one to three.


Minutes of the meeting of this Panel held on 13 February 2015 pdf icon PDF 150 KB


RESOLVED that the minutes of the Panel meeting held on 13 February 2015 are correctly recorded and they be signed by the Chairman. There were no matters arising.


Minutes of the meeting of the Kent Corporate Parenting Group (KCPG) held on 16 March 2015, and verbal update pdf icon PDF 171 KB


1.            Mr M J Vye gave a brief verbal update on four issues arising from the minutes, as follows:-


·         Challenge cards – liaison was ongoing with Surrey County Council about the use of challenge cards, and the outcome of this would be reported back to the Panel.

·         Leading Improvements for Looked After Children (LILAC) – a working group had been set up to aim at getting a ‘good’ rating next time. Social media would be used to reach young people.

·         Social worker change – a new target had been set for the percentage of children who had been in care for more than 18 months to have the same social worker for at least 12 months, and this was 50%.  The current score against this target was 39%. The Corporate Parenting Panel should scrutinise this issue.

·         Links between the KCPG and the Corporate Parenting Panel – it had been agreed that the KCPG would now receive the minutes of the Corporate Parenting Panel meeting, and vice versa.


2.            Mr Vye and Ms Hammond responded to comments and questions from Members, as follows:-


a)    the social work service had experienced difficulties in recent years, but Kent could strive to make its service as good as it could be, and, by benchmarking against other authorities, better than those of its peers.  Although the number of social work vacancies was an area of concern, realistically there would always be some level of turnover and vacancy. The changes made to the 16+ service should help to minimise changes and meet the 50% target.


3.            RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of the Kent Corporate Parenting Group held on 16 March 2015, and the verbal updates and discussion points arising from them, be noted, with thanks.



Chairman's Announcements


1.            The Chairman said that she hoped the discussion between the Panel and young people in care, which had taken place in the first part of the Panel’s meeting, had been useful and would help those who had attended. If today’s attenders spread the word that the session had been useful, hopefully others would be willing to attend future sessions.


2.            The Chairman suggested that, as the Panel’s meetings had necessarily to be business-like, it might be easier for young people to engage via a ‘Shadow Panel’, made up just of young people in care. The Shadow Panel would be sent the main Panel’s agenda and papers, perhaps in an ‘easy-read’ version, and would be able to feed comments into the main Panel meeting. The Shadow Panel could also suggest items of business for the main Panel to consider.  Mrs Skinner agreed that such an arrangement was worth trying, and undertook to talk about it with the VSK apprentices and the OCYPC.  This suggestion met with interest, and a comment made that it was easier to learn more about young people’s views in their own environment.


3.            The Chairman said that she was still not sure that all elected Members fully grasped their role as corporate parents to all children in the care of the County Council, including unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC), up to the age of 18.


4.            The Chairman reminded the Panel that the report of the Select Committee on Corporate Parenting would be considered at the meeting of the full Council on 16 July and suggested that a seminar on the corporate parenting role be arranged for all elected Members on that day.


5.            Finally, she referred to the new practice of holding two OCYPC meetings in different venues in East and West Kent, which would hopefully increase the number of young people who could attend.  She added that all Panel members were invited to attend any OCYPC meeting.


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


1.            Ms Taylor gave a verbal update on the following issues:-


OCYPC – some new members had been attracted via a taster day in Margate; there were now two venues for meetings, in East and West Kent, and a South Kent branch would soon be added.


Activities – ideas were being sought for events which would attract a wider age range, as well as targeting young people who had not previously taken part. As the last residential course had been so successful it was planned to arrange another as soon as possible.


Current involvement – the ‘in care in school’ project sought to raise awareness among school children of the issues faced by their classmates in care; work was ongoing with the Princes Trust, the disability team and the 16+ Children in Care Council.


Future Plans – new ways of working together were being explored, to share the increased workload. Eight apprentices were able to cover the whole county better than before. OCYPC representatives sat on interview panels for foster carers and many had undertaken paediatric training.


2.            Mrs Skinner added that awareness across County Council directorates of the issues facing children and young people in care had increased, partly due to a presentation made by Philip Segurola on the role of corporate parents to a challenger group of senior officers. From this session, some 27 officers had signed up to learn more about this role.


3.            RESOLVED that the verbal updates be noted, with thanks.


Verbal Update by Cabinet Member pdf icon PDF 42 KB


1.            In the absence of the Cabinet Member, Mr Oakford, Mrs J Whittle gave a verbal update on the following issues:-


New arrangements for Disabled Children’s Services - Disabled Children’s Services, Adults Learning Disability and Adult Mental Health Services had come together in a new division from 1 April 2015. Penny Southern would be the Director responsible for the division, called ‘Disabled Children, Adults with a Learning Disability and Mental Health’. This closer alignment would further improve the support for disabled young people becoming adults.

Select Committee on Corporate Parenting – the Select Committee had finished its evidence gathering and was expected to make some hard-hitting recommendations in its final report, which would be presented to the County Council in July 2015. This was expected to attract local media attention, and would be an opportunity to remind all elected Members of their shared corporate parenting responsibility.

Future government support – whatever the make-up of the next Government, it was vital that the interests of children and young people be maintained at the top of the political agenda as an issue with cross-party support. The Chairman added that the new Minister could be invited to meet representatives of the County Council.


2.            RESOLVED that the verbal update be noted, with thanks.


Participation and Engagement of Children and Young People in Care pdf icon PDF 109 KB

Additional documents:


1.            Mrs Skinner introduced the report and highlighted the key points of it, including the recent appointment of an Interim Assistant Director for Corporate Parenting, Geoff Gurney, and two participation workers in VSK, for a period of 12 months.  She responded to comments and questions from Panel members, including the following:-


a)    the involvement of social workers at meetings of the OCYPC had been considered, and there was scope to invite a social work representative to a meeting if there were issues which the OCYPC wished to share with them, but it was important that there were not more social workers present than young people;


b)    concern was expressed that younger children in care may find it harder to relate their views and talk about their experiences, particularly to adults, although they did have a range of ways in which to put forward their views, eg in ePEP review sessions, and via their IRO or social worker, and some events arranged by VSK were open to children and young people of a wide age range;


c)    regarding target setting for the level of engagement with young people, it was important to be realistic about what was achievable, and the target to be set would need some careful thought.  Mrs Skinner added that the IRO service was to hold a focus day in May 2015 to look at participation and engagement; and


d)    good foster carers would always encourage a young person to participate and engage, so ensuring that foster carers had information about the options available was a good way of spreading the message to young people.  The Chairman added that she had requested that attendance at participation days and involvement in activities be part of a foster carer’s annual review.


2.            RESOLVED that the information set out in the report and given in response to comments and questions be noted, with thanks, and a further report be made to the Panel in six months’ time.


Head Teacher of Virtual School Kent (VSK) update report pdf icon PDF 160 KB


RESOLVED that the information set out in the report be noted, with thanks.


Children in Care and Care Leavers Strategy 2015-16 pdf icon PDF 70 KB

Additional documents:


1.            Panel members commented that, although the membership of the Panel listed on page 49 of the Strategy document was complete and correct at the time of preparation, it could usefully have indicated that membership included foster carers and VSK representatives. 


2.            RESOLVED that the information set out in the report be noted, with thanks.



Post-Adoption Support update pdf icon PDF 59 KB

Additional documents:


Ms Y Shah, Interim Head of Adoption Service, and Ms A Coombs, Family Finding Team Manager, were in attendance for this item.


1.            Ms Shah introduced the report and told the Panel that, in the 2014/15 financial year, 143 children had been placed for adoption (out of 149, six cases having been delayed by challenges from birth parents), 181 children had been adopted and 138 new adopters approved. A three month moratorium had been placed on further adopter recruitment, and this may be extended further, as only five children were currently awaiting adoption.  Kent’s adoption service was now growing very successfully as an excellent multi-disciplinary team. Ms Shah responded to comments and questions from Panel members, as follows:-


a)    the move to reduce adopter recruitment was supported, as this would avoid parents reaching the end of the approval process and being disappointed when there were no children available to be adopted;


b)    Kent had a good track record of former foster carers moving to become adopters; and


c)    part of the post-adoption support service was geared to supporting adopters and children to access the CAMH services, and it was recognised that more work on this was needed. 


2.            RESOLVED that the information set out in the report and given in response to comments and questions be noted, with thanks.


Emotional Health and Wellbeing Strategy pdf icon PDF 57 KB

Additional documents:


Ms C Infanti, Commissioning Officer, was in attendance for this item.


1.            Ms Infanti introduced the report and explained that the Strategy was being reported to the Panel in response to a request for an opportunity to see and comment on it before sign-off.  It was later to be considered by the Children’s Social Care and Health Cabinet Committee. She set out the process for its preparation and the consultation which had been undertaken, and responded to comments and questions, as follows:-


a)    the focus of GPs on the lowest tier of the service was welcomed, as many emotional problems in the teenage years were due to normal adolescent development and needed no more specialised attention, although GPs were able to refer cases, if necessary, to emotional health and wellbeing providers;


b)     asked about changing patterns of mental health problems in children and young people in recent decades, and to what extent these could be linked to mothers’ use of drugs and/or alcohol during pregnancy, Ms Infanti undertook to look into any links and advise the Panel; and


c)    Ms Hammond pointed out that very few young people experienced mental ill health requiring treatment; much was distress rather than ill health.  It was important to raise awareness of levels of emotional distress which could be experienced and make carers and professionals more aware of the issues.


2.                  RESOLVED that the information set out in the report and given in response to comments and questions be noted, with thanks.