1. Mr Graves gave a verbal update on recent work undertaken by the participation team on behalf of the Children in Care Councils (CICCs), the Super Council and Young Adult Council (YAC). The text of the update is appended to these minutes.
2. In response to questions from the Panel by Mr Graves, Ms O’Grady and Mr Segurola, and in subsequent discussion, the following points were raised:-
a) challenge cards, seeking a free young person’s railcard for members of the YAC, and asking about the possibility of corporate parents acting as guarantors for young people’s rent, were passed around the table for Panel members to see. These and a previous challenge, asking that young people in care be given a free provisional driving licence at 17, were welcomed by the Panel as constructive suggestions which would encourage independence, and corporate parents’ support of them would echo the support and help that a young person’s own parents might normally offer them as they approached adulthood and needed to become independent. However, it was important to look carefully into the legalities of the County Council as corporate parent taking on the role of guarantor;
b) more challenge cards were to follow and would be introduced to the Panel gradually. Mr Segurola asked how the Panel wished challenge cards to be handled, as the former Kent Corporate Parenting Group had previously received them, and there was general agreement to the Corporate Parenting Panel being the recipient of them and acting as a conduit by which they could be passed on to the appropriate Portfolio holder to deal with, eg the railcard request would be passed to the Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport;
c) it was suggested that, in addition to supporting the previous challenge for a free provisional driving licence, the Panel write to driving schools to seek discounted fees on driving lessons, seek funds from the County Council with which the costs of driving lessons could be subsidised and/or approach reputable second hand car dealerships to help young people to afford a first car. This was another way in which corporate parents could offer the type of support that any other parent might offer;
d) another view was expressed that young people be made fully aware of the costs of maintaining, insuring and running a car and a suggestion made that young people be encouraged instead to start with a moped. This would have the added benefit of allowing them to learn about and become aware of road conditions and safety before moving up to owning a first car;
e) County Council Members had previously used part of their Members grant to help fund participation events, and attended and enjoyed various events in their role as corporate parents. It was hoped that this would continue and that new Members joining the Council in the May 2017 elections would take up this option;
f) the Panel was advised that the VSK apprentices continued to be involved, as the Recruit Crew, in the recruitment and training of social workers and foster carers, and were involved in preparing guidance on good practice in this field. For this they would receive accredited training in recruitment and selection issues, and this would help them build up useful employment skills and something good to add to their CV. The possibility of approaching universities to help train social work students was also being considered;
g) the number of young people accessing advocacy services had increased, showing that young people’s awareness of such services was good. However, the Young Lives Foundation was working with the Young Adult Council to further promote the use of this service;
h) the Chairman referred to the County Council staff lottery, the Kent Fund for Children, which raised money from which small occasional payments could be made to families to help them cover expenses such as school uniforms;
i) the challenge card about corporate parents acting as guarantors for young people’s rent costs found support among Panel members, as this would help young people to afford better quality accommodation than they might otherwise manage on their own. However, the experience of one Panel member who had been a guarantor for a young person’s rent, but had been left to pay off their debts, showed that anyone considering such an arrangement needed to be fully aware of what they could be letting themselves in for if the young person failed to manage their money properly or keep up with the required payments. It was generally agreed that such an arrangement should not be entered into lightly;
j) Mr Segurola suggested that, as the provision of accommodation for young people was a complex and changing area and had not been discussed recently, an item be added to the Panel’s work programme for a future meeting. He said he would shortly be attending a multi-disciplinary housing group and would start to address the need to prioritise care leavers’ accommodation;
k) it was suggested that the Panel write to John Littlemore at Maidstone Borough Council in his capacity as co-ordinator of district housing officers in Kent, to lobby for the issue to be addressed by district and borough councils; and
l) the Chairman suggested to Mr Graves that VSK apprentices might like to suggest a topic affecting young people in care or care leavers to be looked at in depth by a County Council Select Committee.
3. RESOLVED that the verbal updates be noted, with thanks