1. The Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Education, Mr R Gough, gave a verbal update on the following issues:-
Post-Ofsted Practice Development Plan – issues identified in the Ofsted inspection report had been mostly covered by work which was already in hand, for example working with district councils to co-ordinate and improve accommodation provision for 16 and 17 year olds. The practice development plan had been reported to the Children’s, Young People and Education Cabinet Committee on 7 September and would then be submitted to Ofsted as the County Council’s formal response to the inspection report.
Report on celebration events – recent events held to celebrate the achievements of children in care had been excellent, and the range of activities and achievements being celebrated very broad. Younger children had featured in the morning session and older children in the afternoon. He urged Panel members to attend future celebration events.
KCC personnel changes – Philip Segurola was to leave Kent County Council on 29 September after four years as Director of Specialist Children’s Services for a similar post in Croydon. Mr Gough paid tribute to r Segurola’s distinguished service, particularly in increasing engagement and participation with children and young people in care and for his work with unaccompanied asylum seeking children. Sarah Hammond had been appointed as the interim Director of Specialist Children’s Services. Matt Dunkley would arrive in late November to take up the post of Corporate Director for Children, Young People and Education.
UASC latest status – there had been very little change since the last meeting in the number of UASC arriving in Kent, with numbers still very low compared to previous years and the effect of the National Transfer Scheme being apparent; there had been 148 arrivals so far in 2017, compared with 388 for the whole of 2016 and 948 for the whole of 2015. However, the number of care leavers would increase steeply in January as approximately 796 UASC would reach 18, and it was expected that the UASC population would then decrease to 231.
Academic results – early results were yet to be verified but the initial picture was good, with Kent children in care scoring above the national average in all subjects. KS4 and GCSE results would be difficult to compare to previous years as the parameters had changed nationally. In this academic year, twenty young people in care had achieved sufficient grades to win university places.
Leaving Care service – this had been nominated for an award by Children and Young People Now magazine and the winners would be announced on 24 November.
Post - Adoption service – this had been nominated for an ‘Excellence in Adoption’ award.
2. Mr Gough responded to comments and questions from the Panel, including the following:
a) although there was still a gap in attainment between children in care and their peers not in care, and this was still wider than hoped, the picture had improved much in the five years since the establishment of the Virtual School Kent;
b) KS4 results were usually reported to the Children’s, Young People and Education Cabinet Committee twice a year, in October and in the new year, so a clearer overall picture should be possible then;
c) as part of the Prevent Strategy, foster carers were supported to deal with issues relating to the radicalisation of young people. The safety of foster carers was as important as that of the young people in their care, and both needed support to deal with such issues. A report on issues arising from the Prevent agenda would be prepared for a future meeting of the Panel;
d) foster carers were also trained to deal with issues experienced by UASC, and Ms Khosla advised that this training would be revised in the wake of recent terrorist activity. It was important also that foster carers should feel able to report any concerns of this type that they had about the young people in their care and should have a clear process for doing this;
e) Panel members asked to be given as much information as possible about the support available for vulnerable young people and those caring for them, so they as corporate parents could be fully aware of issues. It was acknowledged that some information may not be able to be shared in a meeting open to the public, and thought would need to be given to how best to approach this; and
f) concern was expressed about further budget cuts in Specialist Children’s Services and that any such cuts may jeopardise progress made so far in issues such as those set out above. Mr Gough said that he could not promise no more cuts but that he did not want to see any reversal in progress during his tenure as Cabinet Member. He added that some work could be approached differently, for instance, to place as many children as possible with in-house foster carers to minimise payments to external foster carers. Ms Khosla added that Kent made the lowest number of external foster placements of any authority in the UK. A review of external fostering was currently being undertaken by Martin Narey and would look at Kent as an example of best practice.
3. It was RESOLVED that the verbal updates be noted, with thanks.