Agenda item

Children's Services Improvement Plan: Progress Update


1.         Ms MacNeil introduced the report and assured Members that work on the improvement of services was ongoing. She explained that the recent restructure was continuing to bed in and it and work with the Courts to speed up the adoption process were both starting to show some effect.  The number of children who are the subject of a Child Protection Plan has decreased.


2.         Ms MacNeil, Mrs Whittle and Mr Ireland responded to comments and questions from Members, explaining the following:-


a)         the ongoing issue of the number of children in care placed in Kent by other local authorities, and the challenge of finding school places for them, is being addressed by a working group set up by the Department for Education, with representatives from London Boroughs and Kent County Council (Ms MacNeil).  KCC has a statutory duty to provide a school place for a child in care placed by another local authority.  Some children’s homes have their own arrangements for finding places.  Some places in pupil referral units are taken by children from other local authorities, displacing Kent’s own children in care. Ms MacNeil added that she is not aware of any problem of Kent’s own children in care accessing school places;


b)         taking a child into care is a very difficult decision to make, and the assessment process is necessarily robust. The child’s needs are always paramount, and it is important to make the best possible decision about their future and to place them as soon as possible in a suitable situation. In some cases, it is deemed appropriate to return a child home, but in these cases the decision to take them into care should in no way be viewed as a ‘mistake’;


c)         social workers can only take a child into care with the authority of a Court Order. The application for that Order is very closely scrutinized, and very few applications are refused.  Only the Police can remove a child without an Order, for the child’s protection;


d)         in its self-audit process, KCC is open and clear about its performance and about reviewing its progress.  The format of performance reports has so far followed the style and headings in the Improvement Notice, to which they have been responding, but future reports to the Cabinet Committee will be in a different format which responds to the way in which Members and officers would rather see information;


e)         the impact of the social worker recruitment campaign launched in September 2012 varies across the county, and Ms MacNeil undertook to advise the questioner outside the meeting on the impact in specific areas;


f)          the term ‘looked after child/ren’ will no longer be used and is being replaced by the preferred term ‘child/ren in care’; and


g)         the number of children in care in Kent has stabilised at just over 1,600, at a time when the national figure is increasing.  In Kent,  children stay in care for a shorter time, moving on to a permanent placement such as adoption, or returning home. This is due to the quality of KCC’s social work staff and the impact of its early intervention measures.


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

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