Mr M Dunkley (Corporate Director, Children Young People and Education) was in attendance for this item.
(1) Mrs Chandler (Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services) gave a verbal update on the following issues:
· Kent Foster Carer Awards - KCC held a virtual ceremony for annual Kent Foster Carer Awards, recognising the wonderful work undertaken by foster carers and staff. A record 149 nominations had been received and the nominations were open to others such as social workers, nurses and teachers, in addition to foster carers.
It was reported that more foster carers were needed in Kent and emphasis was given to the support that Kent foster carers received. Members were asked to encourage the recruitment of foster carers.
· Adoption Partnership South East - There was a virtual launch for the Adoption Partnership South East. Whilst it was formed in response to a government mandate that all local authorities must join a regional adoption agency by 2020, the agency brings together knowledge and expertise from the London Borough of Bexley, Medway Council and KCC. The focus was recruiting more adopters across the South East and accelerating the processes. More adopters were needed for children with additional needs.
· Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) – Numbers of UASCs had dropped slowly but were double the safe level recommended by the Home Office. KCC was liaising with the Department for Education and the Home Office on an ongoing basis. The consultation had closed on the National Transfer Scheme and the results of were awaited.
· Corporate Parenting Christmas Appeal – In collaboration with the Young Lives Foundation, a fundraiser had been set up to give 1900 care leavers a Christmas gift and good progress had been made towards the fundraising target.
(2) Ms Hamilton gave a verbal update on behalf of Mr Long (Cabinet Member for Education and Skills) on the following issues:
· Free School Meals Scheme - KCC had implemented its free school meals scheme, through a helpline and webpage to provide vouchers to eligible families over half term. This was done at very short notice by working with partners and they were able to reach out to those the scheme was intended to help and approximately 20,000 £15 food vouchers, redeemable at Asda or Tesco, were issued to families.
· The Kent Test – The Kent Test dates went ahead as planned but for those who were not able to sit tests due to Covid-19, further sessions were arranged to ensure all registered applicants could be tested. The process was designed in order that wider individual circumstances were considered and minimised risks of children being at a disadvantage in comparison to their peers.
The Headteacher Assessment process had been fully digitised and panels were meeting. The results of the Kent Test were on track to be released to parents by the 26 November 2020.
(3) Mr Dunkley gave a verbal update on the following issues:
· Covid-19 Pandemic – The effects on schools had been harder during the second wave of the pandemic and due to rises in infections, decisions had been made around closing to year groups or closing schools very rapidly. It was recognised that schools would struggle in the period up to Christmas as there would be a ‘knock on’ effect with years groups being sent home, schools closing, staff illness and staff self-isolating, working from home. Tributes were paid and thanks given to schools and the teams supporting schools, for the work and the resilience staff had shown.
(4) In response to the updates, the following points were noted:
· The Free School Meals Scheme at half term was implemented at short notice in around 48 hours, using existing arrangements with Asda and Tesco. The teams were looking ahead to Christmas with options to support families and to make it easy for families to benefit from the vouchers. It was queried whether links could be made with foodbanks and links were being considered through district councils to foodbanks.
· Close work was being undertaken with schools to help them to manage Covid-19 outbreaks and to encourage a consistent approach. KCC was offering consistent advice to schools but school closures had been rare. Work was being done with schools on the offer for key worker children, where year groups had been sent home or school closure was necessary.
(5) RESOLVED that the verbal updates be noted.