Agenda and minutes

Corporate Parenting Panel - Tuesday, 8th December, 2015 1.00 pm

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

Contact: Theresa Grayell  03000 416172

No. Item


Apologies and Substitutes


Apologies for absence were received from Ms C J Cribbon, Mr S Griffiths and Ms B Taylor. 


There were no substitutes.


Minutes of the meeting of this Panel held on 23 October 2015 pdf icon PDF 102 KB


RESOLVED that the minutes of the Panel meeting held on 23 October 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 held on 23 November 2015, and brief verbal update pdf icon PDF 131 KB

Additional documents:


1.            Mr M Vye referred to the recommendation made by the Corporate Parenting Select Committee (which was soon to report to County Council and then publish its report) that the Corporate Parenting Panel (CPP) and Kent Corporate Parenting Group (KCPG) should merge.  There was much overlap in the agendas of the two groups, so he felt that a merger would seem a good idea, unless officers would prefer to keep the operational role of the KCPG separate from the scrutiny role of the CPP.


2.            Mr Segurola commented that a merger would benefit the way in which health and education issues could be covered, and professionals from those two disciplines be involved in the membership of a joint group. He added, however, that a joint group with a broader membership may lead to such large meetings that young people may be deterred from attending.


3.            RESOLVED that the minutes of the Kent Corporate Parenting Group held on 23 November be noted.



Chairman's Announcements


1.            The Chairman welcomed Gemma O’Grady to her first meeting of the Panel, following her recent appointment as Participation Co-ordinator.


2.            The Chairman announced that the clerk to the Panel, Theresa Grayell, had recently won a national award as the Democratic Services Officer of the year from the Association of Democratic Services Officers, the professional body of governance officers. Miss Grayell received the Panel’s congratulations and said that one of the criteria on which nominations had been judged was innovation, so her work on involving young people on the Panel had played a large part in her winning the award. Miss Grayell added that she viewed the award not only as a personal achievement but also as an acknowledgement of the pioneering work that Kent had done with its Corporate Parenting Panel and its forerunner, the Children’s Champions Board.



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


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


a)    Heidi Coombes, Chris Dowle and Gurpreet Mahay had all left VSK to take up full-time employment, having passed their NVQ Level 2 in Business Administration;


b)    there were currently four vacancies for VSK apprentices;


c)    a winner had been chosen in the social worker business card competition and liaison with the communications team was in hand to move this forward;


d)    work plans for 2016 for the North and West Kent teams included tackling stigmas around being in care, addressing standards of support from foster carers and social workers and improving communications between young people and the professionals working with them;


e)    attendance at the first meeting of the OCYPC Junior Council had been disappointing. The possible reasons for this were being  investigated, and plans to promote the new Council put in place;


f)     developments in Youth Advisory Council work included encouraging young people to take part in recruitment interview panels, continued work on provision of accommodation and the establishment of a Facebook group;


g)    meetings had recently taken place with Surrey County Council’s participation team. Possible future projects arising from these meetings include consolidating surveys into one annual survey, seeking support from the Council’s communications team to print and mail out newsletters and flyers, arranging a Christmas meal for 18+ care leavers, as many might be alone at that time of year, and further work on the possibility of forming a joint Children in Care Council with Surrey, to share expertise and arrange joint activities for those young people from Kent placed in Surrey;


h)   previous plans to take a party of  care leavers to the Hardelot centre in Normandy had now been replaced with six activity days, which would spread funding much further and allow more young people to join in and benefit from participation for the same cost;


i)     a Winter Fayre event would take place on 30 January 2016, open to children in care, County Council staff and foster carers and their families.  A flyer was tabled and subsequently copied round to all Panel Members; and


j)      other ongoing work included:-


·         work with the digital services team on the use of social networking methods to contact young people. It was important to find ways of allowing young people to interact safely online and to address safeguarding concerns;

·         building links with Kent children and young people placed in other local authorities;

·         developing the ‘recruit crew’, to support young people’s interview panels; and

·         workshops to raise awareness of the important of participation.


2.            Ms Dunstan responded to comments and questions from the Panel, which were as follows:-


a)    more unaccompanied asylum seeking children could be involved in activities, despite the perceived language barriers. One young Egyptian man who attended a residential course at the Kent Mountain Centre in Wales had been able to join in and gain much enjoyment from the outing. Other young people attending had established a simple system of ‘flash cards’ to help him  ...  view the full minutes text for item 119.


Verbal Update by Cabinet Member


1.            Mr Oakford gave a verbal update on the following issues:-


Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) – Kent now had a total of 1,388 UASC, 986 of whom were under 18. A voluntary dispersal system had received a disappointing response, with only one other local authority offering to participate, taking only 3 young people. To make any real impact on the numbers that Kent was being asked to accommodate, every local authority in the UK would need to take 15 young people. Kent was currently seeking an increase in the reserve powers in the Immigration Bill to impose a mandatory national dispersal system. A meeting with Ministers, the Local Government Association and local authorities was due to take place in the week commencing 14 December to discuss the issue and achieve action. UASC were currently arriving mostly from Eritrea and Afghanistan.  Very few had come from Syria, as refugees from that country tended to travel mostly in family groups.

Children in care placed out of county – Kent had had to place 367 of its children in care with other local authorities, mainly due to a lack of foster care places available within the county. This figure contrasted with the 1,366 children in care currently placed in Kent by other local authorities.

LILAC – Kent had achieved 6 out of the 7 standards in its recent LILAC assessment, and all LILAC recommendations were now being put into action. Much credit was due to Mr Segurola and his officer team for their work in raising standards in Specialist Children’s Services.

National Voice Workshop – Mr Oakford and Mr Segurola had attended this workshop on 21 November.

National Children’s Conference – Mr Oakford had attended this recent 3-day conference in Bournemouth.

Visits – Mr Oakford had continued his programme of visits to centres around the county.


2.            Mr Oakford responded to comments and questions, which were as follows:-


a)    the number of UASC in Kent was worrying, as large numbers would surely make it harder to monitor young people and find any who might abscond.  The Government must be made fully aware of the difficulties Kent faced in accommodating so many, and should not expect Kent to bear this burden alone.  Mr Oakford added that he was seeking different ways in which to highlight the impact and pressure the Government to take action. To emphasise the breadth of the impact upon Kent’s services, he involved colleagues from Health, the Police and Education; and


b)    the Chairman added that the Children’s Social Care and Health Cabinet Committee on 2 December had also made a strong recommendation to seek Government help in addressing this as a national problem.


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



Views of Young People In Care


Sophie, 24, a recent graduate and former child in care, was present for this item and addressed the Panel.


1.            I was in care from the age of 15, but not with Foster Carers: I lived with relatives of my birth family in a kin fostering arrangement. In my time in care I met a number of social workers but I never felt able to trust them; it seemed to be ‘just a job’ for them. From 16 onwards I had a key worker whom, I felt, did listen to me.  I had a good bond with her and felt supported by her.  She came to my graduation and was so proud of me, having helped me succeed.  Having someone whom you want to make proud of you makes you seek to feel proud of yourself.


2.            As a child in care, you have to address people’s expectations of you.  You can be labelled as a ‘problem child’, which I felt happened to me as soon as my Mum died.  I did my GCSEs on my own, without support, and got into boarding school with a bursary.  I found out about a bursary as a relative acted as an advocate for me, but it’s very easy to get lost when you leave care; you need to know to ask about bursaries and scholarships.   You need to be able to see the choices before you can make them.  Children in care cannot see, or are not told about, these choices, and this is not fair. 


I am not sure that all foster carers and social workers have this information, to give to young people. 


I set up a scheme to get children who are on the edge of care into boarding schools, but this had very limited success and I regret that this didn’t really take off.  Some schools are not well equipped to support young people.  The quality of pastoral care is important. 

3.            Boarding school was so much more than school for me; the pastoral care that I received was very important. I was a boarder in the week and went home at the weekends. It gave me a release from being a child in care and I was able to balance school life with home life and make the most of both areas.  Boarding school became another family for me, with the school matron as a pastoral figure. The structure and routine helped me a lot; in my home life I only knew chaos. Having good pastoral care alongside my education was invaluable. Young people need structure and direction. Many people tiptoe round children in care but that isn’t helpful; boarding school didn’t do that to me, which was good. From them I got a good education as well as learning life skills.


It seems that the key thing that is missing for young people in care is stability, and having someone whom they can be sure cares about them and will keep in touch.  A corporate body  ...  view the full minutes text for item 121.


Regional Collaboration Meeting pdf icon PDF 69 KB


1.            Mr Gurney introduced the report and responded to comments and questions from the Panel, as follows:-


a)    when benchmarking, it was important to consider the reason for measuring what was being measured, and then be clear about the differences between, and relative values of, ‘listening’ and ‘scrutiny’ roles;


b)    the regional collaboration meeting had been a useful networking day, and it was useful to be able to compare the approaches taken by different authorities to involving children in care on their corporate parenting bodies and to exchange ideas on the role played by young people.  In comparing approaches taken by other authorities, it was important to bear in mind that most had many fewer children in care than Kent had and so did not face the same challenges;


c)    Mr Gurney was asked if he felt that the Panel held Kent’s officers to account effectively. He said that officers expected to be challenged and held to account and the level of challenge was good. Via the Panel, officers could also hold elected Members to account about their engagement with children and young people and the extent of their involvement, eg in the regular VSK participation and engagement events; and


d)    discussion at Panel meetings was generally felt to be of good quality and was useful in raising ideas for future work and engagement.


2.            Mr Segurola added that the recommendations of the Corporate Parenting Select Committee, which was soon to report to County Council and then publish its report, reinforced the work of the Corporate Parenting Panel and its broadening of its representation, eg by the review of its terms of reference in September 2015. Officers empowered elected Members to engage and challenge the quality of care received by children and young people in Kent. The Cabinet Member, Mr Oakford, added that UASC should be more involved in corporate parenting work, and suggested that future agenda items for the Panel include this and the views of young people on what would make a good social worker.


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


Leading Improvements for Looked After Children assessment (LILAC) pdf icon PDF 93 KB

Additional documents:


1.            Mrs Skinner introduced the report and explained that the County Council had achieved a further two LILAC standards, so now had six of the seven.  Although there had been much improvement in staff development, the County Council had been judged to have not yet achieved this standard at its last LILAC assessment. It was hoped that staff would be able to engage with more young people, and young people’s awareness of engagement needed to be raised.  Mrs Skinner responded to comments and questions from the Panel, as follows:-


a)    work undertaken in this area since the LILAC assessment, and the action plan of future work, at both strategic and operational levels, would hopefully be sufficient for the Council to be judged to have achieved the standard if it were to be assessed again; and


b)    LILAC assessments were usually undertaken every two years, but Mrs Skinner undertook to find out if an earlier re-assessment may be possible, eg for authorities so near to achieving all the standards.


2.            RESOLVED that the LILAC assessment and its findings be noted and the need for work to continue to address the staff standard (Standard 4), not yet achieved, be supported.



Exclusion of the Press and Public


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






Issues faced by Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children


Three young men were in attendance for this item to talk to the Panel about their experiences of settling in Kent as unaccompanied asylum seekers. They were supported by Flo, a social worker specialising in working with UASC, and an interpreter. 


Welcome to this meeting of the Corporate Parenting Panel. Can you tell us how long you have been here and how well you have settled?

O: I am 15 years old and came to the UK from Eritrea in October 2014. I have settled well and attend school in Canterbury.  I sometimes attend the mosque.


What is your favourite thing about living in the UK?

O: Education. There is a teacher who is helping me to learn English.


So are you enjoying your education? What are your plans for the future?

O: Yes. I want to go to Sixth Form and then to University. I want to be an interpreter.


M: I came from Afghanistan four years ago.  I am in the Sixth Form in Canterbury.  I hope to go to university if I get the right results, and I also want to be an interpreter. I was in foster care for 3 years but I now live independently, sharing a house.  Living in the UK is a big change from living in my own country.  Here I get much support and help to live independently.  When I lived with foster carers they helped me a lot to learn how to manage money and look after myself. 


Do you still get support from them or other professionals?

M: Yes, from my social worker, Flo, and others.  They have helped me a lot.


F: I came to the UK from Eritrea in January 2016.  I play football for a junior team and I want to be a professional footballer when I am older.  The education is very good here.


When you arrived in the UK, did you go to a reception centre?

Flo: They all went to foster carers; they were all under 16 so too young for a reception centre. Being with foster carers helped them settle.


Was it difficult to find the right foster carers?  Was the language barrier a problem?

Flo: Matching is important, and the foster families have helped them with learning English.


Have you made lots of friends here?

F: Yes, I have made friends with my team mates.  We meet up at weekends.


Flo, how did you come to be working with UASC?  Did you choose to?

Flo: Yes, I chose to work with UASC as they are great young people.  They rise to the challenge of learning new languages and learning about new cultures and it is good to be able to see them settle and flourish.


Do you go to youth clubs or centres?

M: In Canterbury there is the Riverside Youth Centre, which supports young people who are learning English as a second language.  They have good activities and sports facilities there.  I don’t go to that centre but I know  ...  view the full minutes text for item 125.