Agenda and minutes

Corporate Parenting Panel - Monday, 29th January, 2018 1.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone. View directions

Contact: Theresa Grayell  03000 416172

No. Item

Item 1 was taken later in the meeting and appears as minute 56


Membership - to note recent changes to the Panel's membership

The Panel is asked to note that:


a)    Nancy Sayer, Designated Nurse for Looked After Children, has joined the Panel as an additional Health representative.


b)    Caroline Smith, Interim Assistant Director of Corporate Parenting, has joined the Panel in place of Naintara Khosla.


The Panel noted that Nancy Sayer had joined the Panel as an additional NHS representative and that Caroline Smith had joined in place of Naintara Khosla.



Apologies and Substitutes


Apologies for absence had been received from Andy Heather. 


There were no substitutes.  


Minutes of the meeting of the Panel held on 9 November 2017 pdf icon PDF 120 KB

Additional documents:


It was RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 9 November 2017 are correctly recorded and they be signed by the Chairman. There were no matters arising.


Chairman's Announcements


1.            The Chairman announced that the Kent Adoption Conference would take place on 23 March and invited all Panel Members to attend. The Democratic Services Officer undertook to send the conference flyer to all Panel Members after the meeting.


2.            The Chairman also referred to a copy of the ‘Get Involved’ newsletter, which all County Council Members had received, and the work of the Dartford Youth Council, and said that these were excellent examples of young people in care getting involved and expressing their views.


3.            The Chairman introduced Matt Dunkley, the new Corporate Director of Children, Young People and Education, and welcomed him to his first meeting of the Panel.


Meeting dates 2018/19

To note that the following dates have been reserved for the Panel’s meetings in 2018/19.  All meetings will commence at 10.00 am at Sessions House.


Thursday 22 March 2018

Friday 1 June 2018

Thurs 19 July 2018

Weds 19 September 2018

Thurs 1 November 2018

Tues 29 January 2019

Weds 27 March 2019



It was RESOLVED that the meeting dates reserved for the Panel’s meetings in 2018/19 be noted, as follows:-


Thursday 22 March 2018

Friday 1 June 2018

Thurs 19 July 2018

Weds 19 September 2018

Thurs 1 November 2018

Tues 29 January 2019

Weds 27 March 2019


Al meetings will start at 10.00 am at County Hall, Maidstone.




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


1.            Ms Dunstan and Ms Mutton gave a verbal update on the work of the OCYPC, the Super Council and the Young Adults Council. The text of the update will be attached to the final version of these minutes.


2.            Ms Smith added that funding would be made available to support the work groups for young women in care, and that Teresa Carpenter and Carolyn Moody hoped to help with these groups. Similar groups for young men were being piloted in East Kent as demand for them had arisen there, and it was hoped that this initiative would later be able to spread across the county.


3.            It was suggested that a further report on the use of the MOMO App be made to a future meeting of the Panel and that this include the views of social workers on the usefulness of the App and perhaps some case studies of how it has been used. The Democratic Services Officer undertook to add this to the work programme.


4.            It was RESOLVED that the update be noted, with thanks.        


Corporate Parenting Challenge Cards pdf icon PDF 79 KB


1.            Mr Doran introduced the report and thanked Members and officers for their sponsorship and support for the Virtual Triathlon event in October.  He then referred back to the discussion at a previous Panel meeting about corporate parents taking on the role of guarantor for care leavers’ rent payments, which was now being reviewed in the light of similar arrangements being made by other local authorities.   Mr Dunkley added that, in his view, unless there was a very good reason for the County Council as corporate parent not to be a guarantor, then the arrangement should be open as a possibility, as it would be for any natural parent supporting their child into adulthood.  He undertook to take further legal advice about the issue and assured the Panel that appropriate safeguards would be put in place before any arrangement was entered into.


2.            Foster carers on the Panel welcomed this review of the guarantor proposal as it supported young people towards independence, and was something that most foster carers would not be able to afford to offer on their own.  Another speaker agreed that such an arrangement would be an onerous undertaking for a family. Her family had recently looked into making such an arrangement for a relative and had found the associated financial enquiries intrusive. 


3.            Mr Doran was asked to relay the Panel’s thanks and appreciation to staff for the work undertaken to progress the challenges.


4.            It was RESOLVED that the progress made to date on Challenge Cards   be noted, the review of the guarantor issue be welcomed and the Panel’s thanks and appreciation for the work undertaken to progress these challenges be relayed to the staff concerned. 



Verbal Update by Cabinet Member pdf icon PDF 41 KB


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

Ofsted ‘annual conversation’ – this was a new model of Ofsted engagement. The first conversation would take place on 7 February and would cover a range of service areas in some depth. A number of documents had been submitted which set out the County Council’s self-assessment of its children’s social care and education services, and this self-assessment covered the same ground as an Ofsted inspection.

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) update – there were currently 274 UASC under 18 and 874 over 18, the latter having care leaver status.  As had been expected, 1 January had seen a large number of UASC turn 18 and become care leavers, as UASC who arrived without paperwork were given 1 January as their date of birth.  There had been only 214 new arrivals during 2017, compared to 388 in 2016 and 948 in 2015. The County Council was continuing to lobby ministers for increased funds to help cover its responsibilities towards UASC. Funding issues were particularly significant in relation to UASC care leavers.


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




Motion to exclude the press and public for exempt business


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 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 planned, it was hoped that a party of young people would attend the start of the meeting to speak about their experiences of being in care, and it is still hoped that this can be arranged. However, at the time of publishing this agenda, it has not proved possible yet to confirm a visit. A revised agenda will be published if there is any change to announce.


A party of social workers from the North Kent Children in Care service, Rodica Cobarzan (Service Manager), Jade Sanghera (Social Worker) and Phil Khumalo (Social Work Assistant), and two young unaccompanied asylum seekers, M (aged 18) and R (aged 11), were present at the invitation of the Panel. 


1.            The Chairman welcomed M and R to the meeting and hoped they had enjoyed visiting County Hall and learning about its history and that of the neighbouring prison.


2.            M and R were asked if they were well looked after in care and both said they were. M said he had been in the UK for four years, having come from Eritrea, and had been very well looked after during that time.  He had lived in shared housing briefly, and foster care, and was now living at a YMCA. He said he had ‘found his family’, referring to the team who supported him.  R was asked if he enjoyed school and he said that he did.  He had been in the UK for just over one year, having arrived in November 2016 from India.  


3.            Phil and Rodica showed the Panel the Silver ‘Social Worker of the Year’ award which the team had won for their work with UASC, having submitted evidence of their work and been shortlisted in the ‘Creative Social Work’ category.  This win was a great achievement for them and they were very proud of the award.  It had raised the profile of the work that UASC social workers were doing, and they were proud to showcase their work to help UASC settle into new lives in the UK and gain an education and independence. The Panel congratulated the team on their success in winning the award.


4.            Rodica said the trauma that some of the young people had experienced was hard to put into words and working with them to help them learn new skills and grow in confidence was immensely rewarding and satisfying. They were running work groups to teach young people skills such as cooking, food hygiene and personal and home safety. Seeing young people learn to cook a meal together and then share that meal with the group was immensely rewarding.  Working with UASC brought to light the small issues which simply did not arise with civilian children but which needed careful thought when working with UASC. UASC also needed different support and more support than civilian children. A social worker was more likely to get a call from a UASC at the weekend, seeking support for something which had happened, perhaps something quite small, as they had no-one else to turn to for support. 


5.            M said he felt close to the social worker, Michael, who had supported him over the years and called him ‘Dad’ as he felt he was a father to him. Michael was the only family M had and he would always call him whenever he needed support or advice. He spoke about everything to Michael and valued him  ...  view the full minutes text for item 56.

UNRESTRICTED ITEMS (meeting open to the press and public)


Virtual School Kent (VSK) Overview Report 2015-16 (validated results) and 2016-17 (un-validated results) pdf icon PDF 75 KB

Additional documents:


1.            Mr Doran introduced the report and highlighted key achievements in the year, including:

·         The overall examination performance in Kent had exceeded the south east average

·         The attainment gap between children in care and all learners had been narrowed

·         Kent’s KS4 results had exceeded the national average

·         The cohort of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) had continued to fall

·         Jo Carpenter and the VSK participation apprentices had organise 19 activity days which had engaged over 400 young people

·         The annual 16+ achievement awards event had grown so much that it now needed a larger venue

·         Ofsted had praised VSK’s use of pupil premium


2.            Mr Doran then responded to comments and questions from the Panel, including the following:-


a)    VSK supported foster carers in providing a flexible timetable as an alternative to a pupil attending a pupil referral unit (PRU).  Without this option and support, some foster carers would have to cope with a disaffected young person being at home all day, and young people would not have the opportunity to address and overcome their difficulties in a supporting environment; and


b)    there was sometimes a lag in schools receiving the pupil premium allocation for a pupil and this could be due to the allocation for a child placed in Kent from another local authority taking a while to be sent on to the new host authority.  In an area in which many out-of-county children in care were placed, this lag could have a sizeable impact on some schools’ funding.  Local authorities around the UK had different processes for claiming and allocating pupil premium. This issue could be picked up by the Select Committee on Pupil Premium.


3.            It was RESOLVED that the performance of the Virtual School Kent in 2015 – 2017 be noted, its impact upon positive outcomes for children in care be welcomed and its priorities for 2018 – 2019, set out in the report, be agreed.



Young People Missing from Placement pdf icon PDF 275 KB


1.            Mr Fitzgerald introduced the report and highlighted the ways in which, until very recently, Kent differed from other local authorities in how missing episodes have been recorded, i.e., its pioneering work with sharing its reporting and data with the police and the way in which it conducted interviews with young people returning from being missing. Mr Fitzgerald responded to comments and questions from the Panel, including the following:-


a)    national guidance gave no exact definition of the word ‘missing’ and historically local authorities and police forces have applied the term in different ways. ‘Missing’ could be taken to mean that a young person was not at home at a time when they should be or could apply to anyone whose whereabouts could not be established, where the circumstances were out of character, or the context suggests that the child may be at risk of harm.  The age range of young people most likely to go missing was 14 – 15.   Mr Dunkley added that this issue was to be covered in the Ofsted conversation on 7 February as local authorities had a responsibility to follow up all missing episodes relating to their children in care, including UASC for which they were the corporate parent;


b)    one foster carer added that she had previously had a foster child who had rarely returned home on time throughout his whole placement.  She had been obliged to report him as missing and he had then been included amongst the figures, although his lateness was never a big issue;


c)    some young people went missing in order to try to find relatives elsewhere in the UK.  Contact with friends and family remained the single biggest pull factor for children who go missing;


d)    asked how many young people went missing and could not be found, Mr Fitzgerald explained that the majority of children who went missing (75%) did so for less than 24 hours.  However, the length of time missing was not in its own right an indicator of risk. Kent had had no citizen children who had gone missing and had not been found but there were a small number who went missing for extended periods.  Some UASC went missing within a short period of arriving in the UK and for these there was a joint agency response as there was a high probability that these young people will have been trafficked.  There was also a number of UASC who went missing close to their 18th birthday and who did not return.  For these young people a pending change in legal status was believed to be the principle trigger. Ms Hammond added that approximately thirty UASC under the aged of 18 were still missing. Members asked for more detailed figures of the number of young people missing who had not returned and officers undertook to supply this information outside the meeting.  This was subsequently done. Ms Hammond then suggested that a regular update report on the cohort of young people missing  ...  view the full minutes text for item 58.


Review and Update of the Sufficiency, Placements and Commissioning Strategy 2015 - 2018 pdf icon PDF 189 KB


1.            Ms Smith and Ms Hall introduced the report and explained that the Panel was being given the opportunity to comment on and influence the review of the strategy.  They then responded to comments and questions from the Panel, including the following:-


a)    a review of the supply of supported housing places had been carried out as part of the preparation for a key decision about the service, and a further review of provision would be undertaken later in the summer of 2018; and


b)    the strategy was primarily concerned with accommodation for children in care, but, related to it, more work was required on preventative and early help services. These services would become part of the strategy in the future.  It was suggested that the Panel have a further opportunity to consider and comment on the strategy later in the summer of 2018, before it was finalised, and this was subsequently added to the work programme.


2.            The Panel then discussed the recruitment, training and retention of foster carers, with the foster carers on the Panel contributing their experiences and views. Points arising included the following:-


a)    information evenings sought to help attract more foster carers but this was a challenge and word of mouth was still the most used method of attracting new people;


b)    Mr Griffiths said the role of foster carer was unlike any other and was a vocation rather than a job;


c)    foster carers recruited more recently could be asked for their input of their experiences of recruitment and how this could be improved in future;


d)    Mrs Carpenter and Ms Moody were looking into the pay structure for foster carers and how this could compete more effectively with IFAs. This work was much appreciated;


e)    support for foster carers was an important part of the package and Mr Dunkley asked foster carers to say what more the County Council could do to support local foster carers’ associations.  Ms Moody said the structure of support groups was important and they performed a valuable role but could have a closer link with social work support.  Mrs Carpenter added that, due to budget restrictions, foster carer support groups had a very low priority, which did not reflect the value the county placed upon its foster carers.  Foster carers needed to have a supportive group in which they felt able to voice worries and discuss problems and find common ground with others who were having, or had dealt with, the same worries and problems. Use of IT for sharing forums was an option but older foster carers tended to resist the use of such media;


f)     these views surprised some Panel members and it was suggested that the Panel take a detailed look at the pay and rewards for foster carers. An item would be added to the work programme for a future meeting;


g)    a former foster carer on the Panel said she would not take up the role again now as she was put off  ...  view the full minutes text for item 59.


Performance Scorecard for Children in Care pdf icon PDF 70 KB

Additional documents:


1.            Mrs Robinson introduced the report and summarised key areas of performance since last reporting to the Panel.  She then responded to comments and questions from the Panel, including the following:-


a)    concern was expressed that performance targets should be realistic and achievable, but not too easy. A combination of shorter and longer-term targets would help the County Council to get to where it needed to be.  Mrs Robinson explained that some targets, for example, the number of initial health assessments undertaken within 20 days of a child coming into care, were not set by the County Council. Ms Sayer added that NHS commissioners in Kent had a key performance indicator of 85% for initial health assessments completed within the 20 working days set out in the statutory guidance. The County Council target was 90%. NHS colleagues worked with social care colleagues to build an improved picture of a child’s case, and consent issues for children within the NHS were different from those in social care.  Ms Sayer offered to supply a breakdown of health assessment data for the last quarter to show what was set and monitored by the Kent NHS clinical commissioning groups, and Mrs Robinson offered to set out the process for target setting in the next performance scorecard report; and 


b)    Mr Dunkley explained that the reasons for patterns of performance would be investigated as part of the overall picture, for example, for the 13.3% of young people who refused health assessments, reasons for and rates of refusal would be examined and compared to those in other local authorities. He added that a good performance target should balance predicted performance with an element of stretch and aspiration.  Ms Smith offered to supply in the next performance scorecard report detail of the reasons given for refusal and how refusal would be dealt with. 


2.         It was RESOLVED that the performance data in the children in care scorecard and the information given in response to comments and questions be noted, with thanks, and the next performance scorecard report include the process for target setting, a breakdown of health assessment data for the last quarter to show what was set and monitored by the NHS, and detail of the reasons given for refusal of a health assessment and how such refusal would bedealt with.