To receive a report from the Cabinet Member for Specialist Children’s Services and the Corporate Director of Social Care, Health and Wellbeing, and to comment and endorse or make recommendations to the Cabinet Member on the proposed decision to adopt the approach set out in the report.
Ms S Hammond, Assistant Area Director, West Kent, was in attendance for this item.
1. Ms Hammond introduced the report and responded to comments and questions from Members, as follows:-
a) young people aged over 16 were not compelled to leave their foster carers if they did not wish to, but for those who did wish to live independently, there was a variety of accommodation options available. In response to concerns about young people resorting to living in hostels, Ms Hammond explained that young people leaving care would be given support and advice on securing and maintaining a tenancy. However, there would always be a chance that a care leaver, as with any other young person starting out, might have problems with maintaining a tenancy, and for the arrangement to break down;
b) the support policy set out in the report, which the Cabinet Member for Specialist Children’s Services would shortly be asked to adopt formally on behalf of the County Council, was concerned primarily with young people aged over 18. Mr Segurola added that the new policy aimed to take account of the expectations that young care leavers were known to have and to be transparent about the support that they could expect from the County Council;
c) in response to a concern about care leavers being housed by district councils a long way from their home areas, Ms Hammond explained that the County Council was able to support care leavers independently of district councils’ housing departments, using a combination of privately-rented and local authority accommodation, as different options would suit different individuals;
d) one speaker read from a report by the Centre for Social Justice entitles ‘Finding their feet: equipping care leavers to reach their potential’,which reported that many care leavers did not have access to a personal advisor. Although some felt that they did not want an advisor, some would suffer as a result of not having one. It was suggested that a line be added to the Specialist Children’s Services scorecard to report the number of care leavers who did not have an advisor. Ms Hammond explained that, even if a young person did not feel that they wanted to have a personal advisor, they would retain the right to access the advisor service at any time until they were 21. Any young person needing additional or specialised help would be allocated a senior personal advisor, who would carry a smaller caseload than other advisors and so would be able to offer more individual, direct support. She reassured Members that no care leaver who needed an advisor would be left without one;
e) in response to a question about how the views of care leavers could be recorded, in the same way that ‘the voice of the child’ represented the view of children in care, Ms Hammond explained that work was ongoing to assess how best to engage and seek the views of care leavers; and
f) asked if care leavers tended to keep in touch with their foster families, Ms Hammond explained that this was not known as the arrangement would be a personal one, but she estimated that many did keep in touch and undertook to see if any such information could be collated and given to Members after the meeting. However, what was known was that 70% of care leavers returned to their birth families, particularly if they had come into care late in their childhood. This arrangement would not preclude them from also keeping in touch with their foster families.
2. RESOLVED that the decision proposed to be taken by the Cabinet Member for Specialist Children’s Services, to agree and adopt, on behalf of Kent County Council, the Care Leavers Support model set out in appendix A to the report, be endorsed, taking into account comments made by this committee.