Mrs Chandler (Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services) gave a verbal update on the following issues:
Inspection for youth offending starting on 21st June:
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) conducted a 5-day full inspection of the Youth Offending Service between 21st and 25th June. The Inspection is a graded inspection although the Council will not have a published report until the week of 4th October. The service will prepare a feedback report for CYPE Cabinet Committee on 17th November.
Virtual School Kent Awards 2021 nominations are now open
Mrs Chandler highlighted that nominations were open for the 2020-21 Virtual School Kent awards for Kent Children and Young People in Care. The deadline for Early Years nominations and those in Year R to Year 11 is Friday 30th July and for those in Year 12, Year 13 and Kent Care Leavers, the deadline is Friday 27 August. The service remains hopeful that it will be possible to celebrate the achievements of Kent’s children and young people in person this year.
The Care Review
Mrs Chandler said the independent review of children’s social care, had now reached its first major milestone and had published its Case for Change which sets out what the review has heard so far and where they think the system needs to change. More information can be found online at: The Case for Change - The Independent Review of Children's Social Care (independent-review.uk)
Mrs Chandler highlighted the achievement of Kent Care Leavers who had worked with the Applied Research Collaboration for Kent, Surrey and Sussex (ARC KSS) on a project called ‘Beyond Lockdown.’ The research team worked with Kent Care Leavers to co-produce the key messages and videos for both care leavers and services working with care leavers to enable them to provide effective support during the pandemic. This work was presented in May to the National Benchmarking Care Leavers Forum and again on 10th June, to practitioners from all local authorities. A press release from ARC KSS will shortly appear to congratulate Kent and Kent Care Leavers for their contribution to the research piece which will be circulated on publication. Further information is available online at: https://kssahsn.net/beyond-lockdown-impact-of-covid-19-on-care-leavers/
Mental health briefing
Mrs Chandler said that invitations to an all-member briefing on mental health to explain KCC’s role in the commissioning and provision of mental health services would be sent shortly.
Children’s Assurance Board
Mrs Chandler said that she would advise the Cabinet Committee of the membership of the Children’s Assurance Board in due course.
Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC)
Mrs Chandler said that KCC would no longer be accepting Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC) arriving in the port of Dover from 14th June to ensure the safe care of those children and young people already in the Council’s care. She said that during 2021 the Council had 422 under 18 UASC in its care and was also supporting 1100 Care Leavers. This meant that Kent social workers and independent review officers had caseloads considerably above the Department for Education recommended guidelines. Of the 242 UASC arriving in Kent between 1st January and 1st June this year, only 52 had been transferred to other local authorities under the voluntary National Transfer Scheme. KCC continued to lobby the government to introduce a mandatory National Transfer Scheme. Mrs Chandler said the Home Secretary had responded to KCC’s letter which was the first step towards a Judicial Review.
In response to questions Mrs Chandler said: the Council had legal responsibility for UASC children placed outside of Kent and that quarantine rules had added additional pressure to the system
Mrs Prendergast (Cabinet Member for Education and Skills) gave a verbal update on the following issues:
2021-22 Kent Test
Mrs Prendergast said that the guidance for the 2021-22 Kent Test and exams had been issued by the Department for Education and circulated to schools in May. The guidance advised Local Authorities to carry out selection testing in September to ensure that parents received their child’s results before the statutory national closing date of 31 October 2021 for secondary school applications. The guidance removed support from the Department for Education for authorities who elected to delay the assessment.
Mrs Prendergast said there was a strong focus on the interests of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, whose learning was likely to have suffered the most during lockdown periods. Schools had been asked to support parents applying for the Kent Test and to ensure that they were aware of the free materials accessible through the Kent Test pages on the Council’s website. She also said that officers had worked closely with schools on the Head Teacher Assessment referral process and would continue to do so.
Mrs Prendergast said that she had written to the Secretary of State for Education on 14th June 2021 to express the Council’s concern regarding educational support for disadvantaged pupils, particularly those eligible for Free School Meals. A copy of the letter had been shared with all schools and the Kent Members of Parliament.
Mrs Prendergast explained that the Department for Education had announced changes to the calculation of the pupil premium for the financial year 2021- 22 which could result in a loss of over £4 million to Kent schools during this year. She said that this loss was coupled with an increasing number of families meeting the threshold as a result of Covid-19.
Mrs Prendergast said the National Audit Office had recently announced that less than half of pupils benefitting from the existing tuition support fund were eligible for free school meals. Evidence from various studies suggested that schools with high levels of disadvantaged children had experienced higher levels of learning loss than other schools – particularly in secondary schools. Mrs Prendergast said that the recent funding for post Covid learning catch up would not be sufficient to address the learning gap. She said that the Council had plans to invest over £10m in the post Covid Reconnect Programme for children and young people. Ministers had given some indication that additional funding might be forthcoming.
16-19 Sector Collaborative Review
Mrs Prendergast explained that the Council was conducting a collaborative review of the 16-19 Sector as part of its strategic plan. The review aimed to improve the options and life chances of Kent’s young people by enhancing the education, skills, and training opportunities available to them. The call-for-evidence could be accessed via the Kelsi website and would be open until July 2021. Mrs Prendergast encouraged those involved in the 16-19 sector to participate in the call-for evidence.
Kent Mental Health and Wellbeing Awards
Mrs Prendergast reminded Members that nominations for the Kent Mental Health and Wellbeing Awards could be submitted?until noon on Wednesday 1 September.?
In response to questions, Mrs Prendergast said that a report on the work being done to narrow the achievement gap between children from different backgrounds could be provided at a future meeting of the cabinet committee.