Agenda and draft minutes

Corporate Parenting Panel - Tuesday, 18th February, 2020 10.00 am

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

Contact: Theresa Grayell  03000 416172

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies and substitutes

Minutes:

Apologies for absence had been received from Julianne Bayford, Gary Cooke, Stephen Gray, Andy Heather and Sarah Vaux.

 

There were no substitutes.

 

2.

Chairman's Announcements

Minutes:

1.            The Chairman reported that she had attended the Try Angle awards and had been so proud of the Virtual School Kent (VSK) Apprentices who had been involved in them.  The Try Angle awards were a reminder that the successes and achievements of young people in care need not necessarily be academic. 

 

2.            The Chairman announced that the next Corporate Parenting Takeover Day would take place on 29 May. Jo Carpenter, Participation and Engagement Manager, Virtual School Kent, added that, this year, volunteers were being sought to host a young person to shadow them for the afternoon, after the Takeover meeting. She asked any Panel members who were willing to offer a young person this opportunity to let her know. 

 

3.            The Chairman then issued a challenge to the young people present:- to identify a Cabinet Member and ask them what, within their portfolio, they would do for young people for whom they were a corporate parent. 

 

3.

Minutes of the meeting of the Panel held on 10 December 2019 pdf icon PDF 322 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

It was RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 10 December 2019 are correctly record and they be signed by the Chairman.  There were no matters arising. 

 

4.

Dates of future meetings

The Panel is asked to note that the following dates have been reserved for its meetings in 2020/21:

 

Thursday 2 April 2020 *                  H 

Tuesday 16 February 2021             H

Friday 29 May 2020 *                      H 

Wednesday 14 April 2021               H

Thursday 23 July 2020                   H

Wednesday 2 June 2021                H

Friday 18 September 2020

 

Tuesday 1 December 2020

 

 

*already in calendar. Those marked H are in school holidays

 

All meetings will commence at 10.00 am at County Hall, Maidstone.

 

Minutes:

The Panel NOTED that the following dates had been reserved for its meetings in 2020 and 2021:

 

Thursday 2 April 2020

H

Friday 29 May 2020

H

Thursday 23 July 2020

H

Friday 18 September 2020  

 

Tuesday 1 December 2020

 

Tuesday 16 February 2021

H

 Wednesday 14 April 2021

H

Wednesday 2 June 2021

H

 

Dates marked H are in the school holidays.

All meetings will commence at 10.00 am at County Hall, Maidstone.

 

5.

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

Minutes:

1.            Sophia Dunstan, Participation Support Assistant, and Tom Byrne, Apprentice Participation Worker, Virtual School Kent (VSK), and Bradley Aves gave a verbal update on the work of the OCYPC, the Super Council and Young Adult Council and set out forthcoming participation events. The text of the update would be appended to these minutes.

 

2.            Matt Dunkley, Corporate Director of Children, Young People and Education, said how much he had enjoyed the ‘Express Yours-ELF’ Christmas entertainment and commended the professionalism of the VSK Apprentice team who had put it together, and for the way they approached any organisational task and presented their reports to the Panel. He advised the panel that Chelsea Goodwin, Apprentice Participation Worker, Virtual School Kent, had won an internship arranged by the Department for Education, to work at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, starting at the end of March 2020. The Chairman recorded the Panel’s thanks to Ms Goodwin for the work she had undertaken with the VSK and congratulations on her new role.

 

3.            The Chairman advised the Panel that she had received a letter from the Young Lives Foundation, which was her charity for her year as Chairman of the County Council.  The letter expressed appreciation and gratitude for the support given to the Young Lives Foundation over the Christmas period, including contributions to the Giving Tree, which had gathered Christmas parcels for care leavers. The latter had been particularly appreciated by the young people who had each received either a toiletries set or a chocolate selections.  A copy of the letter would be attached to these minutes.   

 

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

 

6.

Verbal Update by Cabinet Member pdf icon PDF 99 KB

Minutes:

1.            Sue Chandler, Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services, gave a verbal update on the following issues: -

Try Angle Awards – this had been a fantastic event, and Mrs Chandler echoed the Chairman’s comments about being proud of young people’s achievements.  She added, however, that the young people receiving awards were the tip of the iceberg of those quietly taking on challenges and achieving successes every day. 

Team visits – she had recently visited the Front Door team, to attend a team meeting and see the problems they dealt with on a daily basis. On 19 February she would visit the Dover Youth Hub to see the work undertaken there and attend a meeting with professional partners, including the Police.    

Feedback from the meeting of the Children’s, Young People and Education Cabinet Committee on 10 January 2020 about Council Tax exemption – the proposed exemption had been endorsed by the Cabinet Committee in January and at the budget County Council meeting on 13 February 2020, and the funding for it was now in the budget, ready to start supporting care leavers from April 2020.  Mrs Chandler thanked the Panel for all their efforts in supporting this.

County Council Budget meeting – the budget meeting on 13 February 2020 had also unanimously agreed an additional £500,000 to support youth work, following an amendment to the budget proposed by the Leader of the Labour Group, Dara Farrell.  

 

2.            The Chairman reminded Mrs Chandler that if she ever needed any help or support with an issue relating to young people, she should ask the VSK Apprentices, who always had an excellent can-do approach.

 

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

 

 

7.

Performance Scorecard for Children in Care pdf icon PDF 232 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Mrs M Robinson, Management Information Unit Service Manager, was in attendance for this item.

 

1.            Mrs Robinson introduced the report and highlighted that:

·         the percentage of staff made up of qualified social workers had increased by 6.2% to 95.7%.

·         the number of children in care placed in Kent by other local authorities had fallen by 117.  This was as a result of validation checks to ensure that figures were correct, which had found that 117 had left Kent since the last check, without the County Council having been informed.

 

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

 

a)    the comments made about the scorecard in the OYCPC update were supported, and it was hoped that the suggested changes could be made soon;

 

b)    the scorecard needed to include a few lines of explanation or background to give a fuller picture to statistics, plus some information about what the County Council could do to address an issue.  Mrs Robinson undertook to look into providing this information in future reports;

 

c)    this view was supported by several Panel members, and a comment made that the key performance indicators applied sometimes seemed to be unfair. As the County Council was a Member-led authority, if something was not being resourced sufficiently by Members, they should be made aware of this. Mrs Robinson explained that, where a national target was less than challenging, Kent’s performance sometimes exceeded it.  Many targets were local variations of national targets, and target setting was shortly to be reviewed. It was suggested that this explanation could be included in future reports. Mrs Robinson undertook to look at the young persons’ version of the scorecard and see what explanations from there could be included in the main scorecard;

 

d)    asked why the figures for young people missing from placement were not included in the scorecard, Mrs Robinson explained that these were included in a separate, quarterly scorecard;

 

3.            Mr Dunkley advised the Panel that the commentary in the scorecard would be adjusted to show the direction of travel; the County Council set targets which challenged its own previous best performance; reports made to the Corporate Parenting Panel had been shortened from the version reported to the Children’s, Young People and Education Cabinet Committee as they had previously been deemed too lengthy; the key activity charts on page 5 of the scorecard offered a style of presenting information clearly and succinctly in diagram form, which could be used to present other information; and the monitoring and reporting relating to young people missing from placement was more detailed than the information set out in the scorecard presented to the Panel.

 

e)    it was clarified that the Panel was not asking for their scorecards to be lengthened, just made clearer.  The additional explanation and information requested was only required for performance which was not meeting its target.  Mrs Robinson undertook to provide the additional explanation and information requested on this basis, for example, the number of Special  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Young people missing from placement pdf icon PDF 685 KB

Minutes:

1.            Dan Bride, Assistant Director, Adolescents and Open Access, presented the report and emphasised that the vast majority of children in care had no missing episodes at all. The number of episodes of young people going missing had decreased, despite the number of children in care in Kent having increased. From interviews with young people returning after being missing, it was known that the reason for most episodes was to seek contact with family elsewhere in the county or country.  Kent was not responsible for any children in care placed by other local authorities who went missing. Following the discussion on the scorecard, Ms Bride undertook to include performance data in the next report on young people missing from placement. Kent’s process in dealing with missing episodes had been proven to be robust, with missing family group conferencing playing an important part.

 

2.            The duty upon foster carers to report any young person who was not at home when they were meant to be was very stringent and included the reporting of any who were simply late home at the end of the day.

 

3.            The VSK Apprentices were asked if they knew of any point in a young person’s care career when they were more likely to go missing. Jo Carpenter advised that a young person who had moved to a new placement in a new area sometimes went back to visit the group of friends they had made at a previous placement.  Young people were upset by the idea that they would be reported as having ‘gone missing’ when they were simply seeking contact with their familiar support network.

 

4.            Asked about the criteria for a young person being ‘missing‘, and if this took account of a young person seeking ‘normal’ teenage freedom, Sarah Hammond, Director of Integrated Children's Services, East, explained that this was currently the subject of national debate. There were two categories – ‘missing’ and ‘unauthorised absence’, the latter having an unauthorised absence code which had to be followed. Concern had grown nationally that use of the ‘unauthorised absence’ category was masking a more serious issue and there were calls for it be to be used less, preferring the term ‘missing’. National debate also suggested refining the criteria so any young person who had called to tell their foster carer that they would be late home would not be labelled as ‘missing’.  Ms Hammond assured the Panel that, although a small number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) were missing without trace, no Kent citizen children were in this category.  Some UASC tended to go missing within 24 hours of arriving in Kent, before they formally became children in care, most to seek established communities of their own culture or nationality, while others tended to go missing just before their final tribunal date, when their immigration status was about to be formally decided.

 

5.            A view was expressed that young people wanting to get away and ‘clear their head’ were simple doing what  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Children in Care with Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs): Six-monthly update pdf icon PDF 290 KB

Minutes:

1.            Tony Doran, Head Teacher of Virtual School Kent, introduced the report and highlighted that there were approximately 300 children in care with an EHCP at any one time.  More special placements and part-time timetables were being established to accommodate them. Although there was a general lack of provision for those with Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs nationally, some therapeutic support, tuition and engagement activity was available, and movement was in the right direction, although there was much work still to do.  The aim was to ensure that those working with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) were fully aware of the needs of children in care.

 

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

 

a)  asked how a consistent approach to transferring a child’s SEND paperwork when they moved placement could be achieved, Mr Doran advise that work on this was underway and a code of practice for SEND would seek to ensure that common sense would prevail; and

 

b)  asked how sufficient school places would be ensured for the number of children in care with ECHP needing them, Mr Dunkley replied that providing the right number of places in the right location and categories was a challenge as the building of any new special schools was not permitted by the Government. New free special schools were expected to be available in the 2021/22 academic year.  What was needed was a change to the whole system, to incentivise mainstream schools to accommodate children with ECHP, as many young people in special schools could do well in mainstream schools. However, as many schools were now their own admissions authorities, encouraging them to embrace this would be a challenge, although the County Council would work hard to create new places.

 

3.    It was RESOLVED that the work of the Virtual School in supporting its young people with Education Health and Care Plans be welcomed and commended.

 

10.

Update of Key Work Streams within the Virtual School pdf icon PDF 1 MB

Minutes:

1.            Mr Doran introduced the report and highlighted key areas of progress, including the success of the Paired Reading scheme and ‘Count on Us’ initiative to encourage the development of maths skills, and the fact that Kent was seeking to be the first council in the UK  to establish Nurture Schools across the whole county. The scale and scope of VSK’s participation and engagement work reached beyond the children in care agenda to include co-production work and involvement in the interview process for foster carers and social workers. In Kent, it was vitally important that pupils in care had a voice and were able to take part fully in education. Feedback from young people showed that they felt genuinely that they had been listened to.

 

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

 

a)    asked about the Paired Reading scheme, and what would happen at the end of the six-week programme, Mr Doran explained that the pupil premium would be used to support reading beyond the initial programme, to engender a long-term love of reading. Foster carers would usually continue this with their children as they had come to enjoy it by then;

 

b)    asked why few East Kent schools had taken part in the Nurture project, Mr Doran explained that very few had responded to the opportunity.  It was important, however, that the scheme should be spread across the whole county so all children in care had the opportunity to benefit.  This roll out would also make use of the pupil premium; and

 

c)    Ms Carpenter advised that the exhibition of art by UASC had been taken up by the Turner Gallery in Margate and would then tour Kent libraries.  The success of the exhibition had encouraged the team to repeat the exercise.

 

3.            It was RESOLVED that the update be noted and the work of the Virtual School Kent in supporting its young people be welcomed and commended.

 

 

11.

Care Leavers Survey pdf icon PDF 220 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Rachel Calver, Service Manager for Transition, 18+ Leaving Care Service, was in attendance for this item.

 

1.            Caroline Smith, Assistant Director, Corporate Parenting, introduced the report and advised the Panel that this was only the second annual survey of all care leavers to be undertaken. Although the return had been low, with only 159 (10%) of care leavers responding, the overall level of satisfaction among respondents, with the support they received from the 18+ service, had been high. Current work was seeking to improve the standard of accommodation available to care leavers and to raise awareness of entitlements, including the rent guarantor scheme and Council Tax exemption.

 

2.            Ms Calver added that the response this year, although low, was higher than last year. Using project funding, the team had developed floating support to help young people to manage accommodation issues, and relations with shared accommodation providers had improved, with the aim of increasing young people’s confidence that their accommodation would be well maintained and they could be confident of living there safely.  Awareness was being raised by use of a care leavers’ Facebook page.  Care leavers would also be offered a one-to-one session with a personal advisor to talk through any anxieties and questions they might have about living independently.

 

3.            Ms Hammond reminded the Panel that the County Council had no duty to provide accommodation for care leavers but had a duty of care to ensure that they were housed safely. To avoid care leavers being in danger of becoming homeless, the Council had moved into subsidising accommodation, for example, by means of the rent guarantor scheme.

 

4.            The Chairman added that someone from the 18+ team could give evidence to the Affordable Housing Select Committee, which was currently running, and a Panel member serving on the Select Committee undertook to raise there the issue of accommodation for care leavers. The Chairman advised the Panel that a learning disability group in Dartford had produced an easy-read tenants’ handbook which set out, simply and clearly, household advice and guidance for tenants, and this could also be useful for care leavers and others approaching independent living for the first time. Ms Calver added that this handbook would indeed be useful to include in tenancy training sessions.

 

5.            Ms Hammond highlighted the need for any young person seeking housing to be realistic and not to expect to have accommodation all to themselves. Accommodation was expensive for any young adult setting out, and many young people had to share, to cover the expense, at least to start with.   The County Council would need to manage the expectations of care leavers; with the introduction of the rent guarantor scheme, the Council was already going beyond its minimum duty. 

 

6.            Asked how long care leavers tended to stay in one place once they reached 21, Ms Calver explained that young people could live in shared accommodation until the age of 21 but would then need to move to privately-rented accommodation. Many expected to be given  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11.

12.

Kent Independent Reviewing Officers' (IRO) Annual Report 2018 / 2019 pdf icon PDF 279 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Julie Maguire, Service Manager, Safeguarding and Quality Assurance, and Tina Onuckuchwu, Quality Assurance Manager, IRO Service South East, were in attendance for this item.

 

1.            Ms Maguire introduced the report and updated some statistics which had changed since the report had been written. The number of children in care in Kent during the report period was 1,590, including 254 UASC. IRO caseloads averaged between 50 and 70, which was within the expected range. Work had already started on the 2019/20 annual report, and some areas of reporting would be changed for the next report, for example, areas which quoted percentages would include actual numbers of young people, and analysis would be more detailed. There would also be an easy-read young persons’ version of the report.

 

2.            The IRO had often been cited by young people as the one consistent contact and influence in their lives and a vital support in times of transition. Ms Onuckuchwu added that the IRO role linked to the adoption service and had a role to play in Family Group Conferencing and other services. Every young person between 18 and 25 would be allocated a personal advisor, but the County Council had no duty to provide support beyond the age of 25. She assured the Panel, however, that 80% of young people over 25 had a support network and were in contact with some family members and community.

 

3.            It was RESOLVED that the information contained within the Kent Independent Reviewing Officer Annual Report 2018/2019 and the information given in response to comments and questions, be noted, with thanks. 

 

13.

MOTION TO EXCLUDE THE PRESS AND PUBLIC FOR EXEMPT ITEMS

Minutes:

It was 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.

 

The Chairman explained that the meeting was being closed so a group of invited young people in care could speak to the Panel in private.

 

14.

Views of young people in care

Minutes:

1.              Alisha, CJ, Kayleigh, Keagan, Kezzie, Lainie, Shaniya and Tabatha attended the final part of the meeting to present the Panel with a new Challenge Card:- to produce a new document, a Corporate Parenting Constitution.  This would set out what elected and Panel members and officers would do to raise the profile of the corporate parenting role and take account of the needs of children and young people in care and leaving care.

 

2.            The Panel members, officers and young people were split into three teams, each tasked with prioritising a selection of pre-drafted promises which they might like to include in the constitution as well as drafting any others of their own. They were also asked to consider how the new constitution could be publicised and shared with County Council staff. 

 

3.            It was clarified that the new constitution would not replace the existing Kent County Council pledge to children in care but would complement it. 

 

4.            Suggestions for the constitution content would be considered by the Children In Care Councils, which would then draft the new constitution and report back to the Panel’s next meeting. 

 

5.            Mr Dunkley added that some issues arising from suggestions, for example, making the constitution part of County Council staff contracts, would need legal advice and he undertook to liaise with the General Counsel about these issues.

 

6.            The Chairman thanked the young people very much for attending and sharing their ideas with the Panel, and for presenting the new Challenge Card.