Paul Startup, Head of Care Leavers 18 plus Service., was in attendance for this item.
1. Ms Smith and Mr Startup introduced the report and, with Ms Hammond, responded to comments and questions from the Panel, including the following:-
a) accommodation for care leavers was monitored and inspected by the County Council, and personal advisors would visit young people regularly to see if they had any concerns about their tenancy or any problems with their accommodation. The County Council would always challenge a landlord where there were concerns about the maintenance or condition of a property;
b) the reference to ‘residence not known’ on the list of accommodation types and the numbers of young people in them referred to young people who were missing. This number included those missing in the short- and long-term and consisted largely of UASC over 18 who had gone to find family elsewhere in the UK within 24 hours of arriving in Kent. Kent retained responsibility for them even if they had taken themselves to another local authority area. Other young people who were included in the number were those who had chosen not to stay connected to their foster carers once they reached an age when they felt able to go where they wanted and do what they wanted;
c) the range of accommodation available was welcomed, and a suggestion made that the Panel receive the information on a regular basis, perhaps annually;
d) using a combination of in-house and IFAs, Kent was not necessarily able to meet all young people’s needs at all times, and the large number of UASC who had arrived at the peak of 2015 had meant that IFAs had to be used more than they previously had been, and many of these UASC were still in the foster placements made at that time. Some placements would have been made if Kent was unable to accommodate a child with special needs, for example, for which the only local provider might be someone available through an IFA. However, Kent accommodated the highest percentage of its care population with its own in-house foster carers than any other authority in the UK; and
e) the Chairman suggested that the County Council could look at its own housing stock or estate to see if some premises might be suitable for use to accommodate care leavers. Some premises were used to provide training in household management, cooking, etc, for young people who were about to leave care.
2. Mr Startup advised the Panel that the County Council’s new rent guarantor scheme had overcome some initial hurdles and was now starting to make progress. He had been liaising with letting agencies but some of these had been unused to working with a large local authority as guarantor and had initially been hesitant, being unfamiliar with the role of a corporate parent.
3. It was RESOLVED that the information set out in the report and given in response to comments and questions be noted, with thanks, and that a regular update report be made to the Panel.