Hounslow Council


Agenda and minutes

Venue: Da Spot, Balfour Road, Hounslow.

Contact: Bill Lee on 0208 583 2068 or Email: william.lee@hounslow.gov.uk 

Items
No. Item

18.

Apologies for Absence

19.

Minutes of the meeting held on 30 June 2014 and Matters Arising pdf icon PDF 5 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 30 June 2014 were agreed to be an accurate record. There were no matters arising.

 

20.

Minutes of the meeting held on 29 September 2014 and Matters Arising pdf icon PDF 63 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 29 September 2014 were agreed to be an accurate record. There were no matters arising.

 

21.

Items from Young People pdf icon PDF 84 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The first item was the campaign to improve young people’s experiences of the transition to semi-independence. (Please see agenda item 4). 

 

A presentation on the subject of leaving care was given by three young people. This was followed by a slide show and audio tape made by the Children in Care Council (CiCC) in which people discussed their experiences of leaving care. One of the young people read out his message to his younger self, written to pass on his experience to the next people to leave care. The message was:

1. Learn to budget and handle shopping each week.

2. Be friendly with your neighbours.

3. Ensure that all bills are paid on time.

4. Ensure that you always have sufficient food.

5. Keep your home clean.

6. Make time to relax but don’t disturb neighbours with loud music.

7. Maintain good contact with your social worker and other people who can help you.

8. Speak up if you need to.

9. Learn how to manage and demonstrate that you can do so while still in care if possible.

 

Another young person asked that workshops be conducted to help prepare care leavers for independence. These would include safety, DIY, cooking and social skills and other essentials to successfully live unsupported. Adriana Thomas advised that a meeting had taken place to set up such workshops and officers were looking to work with foster carers to conduct training. Maureen Simpson agreed that training for foster carers would ensure that they could give sufficient help to their charges to enable them to live alone. Such help was vitally important and there was a real need for carers to become more involved. She supported the idea of a check list to ensure that young people had learned how to cook, clean, budget etc. The Chair asked if young people leaving care had reported mixed experiences with regards to the level of help given by foster carers. Ms Thomas advised that some had not felt as prepared as they might have done but emphasised the need for young people to take responsibility for their own lives. However it was also essential that they could feel that their foster carer was still there for them when needed after they had moved on, although young people did not always ask for help when they needed it.

 

Jacqui McShannon advised that some young people couldn’t wait to move out and did not want any further involvement with social workers or any other professionals once they had. The service needed to do all possible to ensure continuity; one of the young people agreed wholeheartedly. Ms Thomas advised that the main purpose of the letters to younger selves was to pass on help from those with personal experience, as it was all too easy for young people to get carried away with the excitement of moving out and so fail to focus on what it entailed until after they had left care.

 

Ms Thomas stated that the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.

22.

Independent Review Officers Annual Report pdf icon PDF 54 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Please see the report by Paul Hewitt, Head of Safeguarding Children and Quality Assurance and Melissa Goodman, Independent Reviewing Officer Team Manager (agenda item 10).

 

Paul Hewitt presented the report. He advised that the timeliness of the first Looked After Review (LAR) had been an area that officers had been very concerned about; the statutory requirement was that the first LAR be carried out within 28 days of a child coming into care and there was a need to tighten this up as a priority. Officers had focussed on achieving this goal and had put a proper duty system in place, resulting in a real collective improvement. Ideally the young people are involved in the process but if they are unable to attend the review then proper consultation documents are produced. This latter was a ‘work in progress’ but improvements had already been seen. The concept of the placement stability toolkit enabled officers to examine placement stability in advance of problems rather then simply reacting after the event and the IRO service was the key driver in this area.

 

Mr Hewitt stated that young people’s potential vulnerability to exploitation was often raised in reviews.  IROs were asked to carry out risk assessments, particularly when young people went missing or were placed out of borough. Information in the form of ‘grab packs’ was always kept up to date and was readily available to be passed on to the police if necessary. IROs were recommending that risk assessments regarding child sexual exploitation, missing and vulnerable issues become part of the care plan. In the past year more young people had been placed in secure care, which gave immediate protection.

 

Cllr John Todd asked for clarification of the term ‘Secure Review’ (paragraph 3.4, page 79). Mr Hewitt advised that a secure review was to enable young people to be placed in a secure environment that they could not leave and it required a court order. It was a last resort and had the effect of punishing the young person, although it was not necessarily a criminal sanction. It allowed officers to work with the young person, for example where drugs or sexual exploitation were issues. There had been five cases in the past year, an increase on previous years. IROs were central to what happened afterwards, which was very important work.

 

Moving on to the Challenge and Issues Resolution Protocol (para 3.5 page 79) Mr Hewitt advised that IROs had worked with the Corporate Parenting service to develop these protocols, which helped to change the culture by which social workers made challenges regarding care planning. The protocol named and gave substance to the process of challenging care plans and ensured that there was a means of holding professionals to account; Mr Hewitt stressed that it enabled good as well as bad practice to be noted. Young people had learned that such challenges were now to be expected from IROs, that issues would be escalated if necessary and that senior  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.

23.

Education of Looked After Children pdf icon PDF 322 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Please see the report by Kate Elliott, Principal of the Virtual College (agenda item 5).

 

Ms Elliott presented the report with the aid of slides (please see the report). Cllr Tom Bruce commented that although attainment at Key Stage 2 was good the gap between looked after children (LAC) and their peers was actually widening. He asked how many of the 26 young people at Key Stage 4 had been LAC since Key Stage 2. Ms Elliott advised that although that data existed it was scattered and so she was unable to answer. If the information was drawn together then it may be possible to ascertain why four of those students did so well, whether it was due to interventions, time in care, or other reasons. Penny Stephen, Senior Education Adviser, stated that officers were developing SIMS and were currently able to look at individual children but not cohorts.

 

Ms Elliott advised that the Virtual College would focus on young people of 16 years and over who were not in education, employment or training (NEETs) and it was hoped to reduce the number significantly. Educational underperformance was comparatively widespread and there was evidence that low expectations of LAC may be a factor, for example people frequently expressed the view that a high percentage of children in care did well academically but figures did not bear that out. This could indicate that people meant that LAC did well “considering”, not that they were actually achieving high grades, because they did not expect them to do so. Foster carer Maureen Simpson acknowledged that there was a need to ensure that children focus on education but advised that carers were naturally primarily concerned with getting possibly traumatised young people settled. Ms Stephen wondered if enough support was given to foster carers to help them keep up with the rapid changes in education. Ms Elliott stated that there was a fundamental need to focus on what was needed for all young people to achieve their full potential and ensure that school/college attendance was maintained; greater emphasis should be placed on educational achievement.

 

Anna Dent, Skills and Employment Development, left the meeting at this point and invited members to forward any questions regarding agenda item 6, Employability of Care Leavers, by email.

 

Cllr Candice Atterton advised that parental involvement was often underestimated when children went into care and that parental aspiration had a huge impact on what children could achieve; those aspirations might be very different from those of foster carers. Martin Forshaw stated that around 50% of children went into care with parental agreement and the highest percentage was in the 16+ age group. There had been improvements in the number of young people classed as NEET, officers were persevering and obtaining good results. Ms Stephen advised that officers looked at what was needed at specific ages, for instance if a child entered care at 14 it may be necessary for them to sit their GCSEs at 17 rather than 16  ...  view the full minutes text for item 23.

24.

LAC Offending pdf icon PDF 116 KB

Minutes:

Please see the report by Chris Domeney, Head of Youth Offending Service (agenda item 7).

 

Mr Domeney presented the report. He advised that the rate of LAC offending nationally was reducing but was still higher than for their peers; the youth offending rate was falling across the board. There was no single reason why LAC had a higher rate but late entry into care was associated with offending – one possibility was that such young people were already involved with crime and ASB and continued when they went into care. Conversely, children in care for a long time had a much lower offending rate. Mr Domeney stated that Hounslow had implemented Triage 2 in April 2012, by which it was now possible to divert young people from becoming first time entrants (FTE) to the criminal justice system when they had admitted to certain offences which could result in a charge rather than just a caution. This had had a positive impact on the offending rate of LAC but there was still room for improvement. There was a need to sharpen intervention to prioritise LAC to ensure they didn’t come back into the system. There was a need to be proactive with regard to assaults and criminal damage in children’s homes and it would be very helpful if such incidents were subject to restorative justice. Mr Domeney urged caution regarding numbers as while offending rates were indeed falling offences were recorded by young people’s usual address; as a result when LAC were placed out of borough any offences were recorded there rather than in Hounslow. These incidents would appear on statistics simply as crimes rather than “LAC crime”, so any children from other boroughs placed in Hounslow would not appear as LAC offenders.

 

Cllr Candice Atterton enquired about the Youth Offending Team’s use of the Coram Voice advocacy service. Mr Domeney advised that the team made use of advocacy to a large extent and had access to Barnardo’s work in prisons and young offenders’ institutions. Solicitors and social workers were available.

25.

Performance

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Please see the report by Chris Hyde, Planning & Performance Officer (agenda item 8). 

 

Mr Hyde presented the report with the aid of slides.  He advised that the number of looked after young people (LAC) subject to Child Protection (CP) plans had fallen and although the graph was red actual performance was still good. Martin Forshaw pointed out that the statistics did not refer to the length of time between CP plans, which could be considerable. Mr Hyde stated that there were more care orders for LAC over the age of 16 but little change in the overall number. Placement stability was good, timeliness and permanence were improving but there was still a long way to go in these areas. Mr Forshaw advised that there was a very small cohort and so numbers could be distorted by just one or two cases. He emphasised that Hounslow’s record on adoption placement stability was much better than neighbouring boroughs; although other boroughs placements were faster they broke down significantly more often. Jacqui McShannon expressed concern that a concentration on timeliness could affect stability in future. She reported only one adoption breakdown, where the carer had died.

 

Cllr Tom Bruce asked if officers felt Hounslow had better stability because more time was taken over the adoption process. Cllr Paul Lynch urged caution before assuming that care over the process was the only reason Hounslow adoptions took longer; Cllr Bruce agreed and asked that it was very important to make the necessary comparisons. Ms McShannon advised that she would obtain a benchmark from the West London Consortium.

 

Moving on to the subject of the percentage of care leavers in education, employment or training (paragraph 9) Mr Hyde advised that major changes to recording methods had led to figures for the first quarter appearing as good and those for the second as poor. There was a need to take a longer term view to establish whether there was more to this than a change in recording methods. Regarding complaints (paragraph 12) Mr Hyde warned of significant problems in identifying the exact number of complaints due to a communications breakdown. Ms McShannon called for some information from the advocacy service to be included in future reports.

 

The Panel noted the difficulties in assessing statistics at present.

 

26.

Employability for Care Leavers pdf icon PDF 106 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Please see the report by Anna Dent, Skills & Employment Development Officer (agenda item 6). 

 

Ms Dent had unfortunately had to leave the meeting early and asked members to email any questions on the report to her.   

27.

Ofsted Review of Progress pdf icon PDF 64 KB

Minutes:

Please see the report by Jacqui McShannon, Interim Assistant Director, Children’s Safeguarding and Specialist Services and Chris Hyde, Planning and Performance Officer (agenda item 9).

 

Ms McShannon presented the report. She advised that scrutiny was a key element of the improvements following the Ofsted inspection. Several groups made up the new Quality Assurance Group and people were invited to challenge service provision. Officers were working with the Scrutiny Panel and trying to develop more transparent reports. Ms McShannon invited members’ feedback.

 

Cllr Paul Lynch felt that it was necessary to remember that all Councillors were corporate parents but some had only a vague notion of that responsibility. A training event had been held but the turnout had been disappointing. He suggested that perhaps ‘headline’ information regarding corporate parenting be produced for all Councillors. Cllr Lynch was impressed by the new ways of presenting information and felt that he was better informed than previously. Ms McShannon agreed that turnout for the training had been poor but had reached perhaps 40 members and officers altogether. Officers were bringing in people from other departments, including Anna Dent from REDe and were making recommendations to Lead Members. Cllr Tom Bruce agreed with Cllr Lynch’s suggestion of headline information for all members and suggested that the matter be requested at Borough Council. Ms McShannon suggested the production of an annual Corporate Parenting Panel report to Borough Council, which was agreed by members.

 

Cllr Candice Atterton commented that senior officers had done a very good job but she wished to hear from social workers on the ‘front line’ to gain a first hand idea of whether the service was sustainable in the face of cuts and inevitable ‘burn-out’ of staff. Ms McShannon agreed that staff could appear at Panel meetings or perhaps arrange separate meetings with members.

 

28.

Any items for Corporate Parenting Panel slot at Scrutiny and forward agenda

Minutes:

Jacqui McShannon advised that the structure of Panel meetings differed each time in response to feedback. She asked if members would like more opportunity to hear from young people and officers. Cllrs Candice Atterton and Tom Bruce agreed that the input from young people was invaluable but Cllr Bruce felt that it was essential to get the right balance without expecting young people to sit through an entire meeting of up to two hours. He suggested the possibility of holding two separate meetings, with young people involved in one, with in-depth questioning of officers and a second more general Panel meeting. Cllr Samia Chaudhary suggested a half hour discussion with young people before the formal, minuted part of the meeting, as had occurred previously. Cllr Paul Lynch felt that an informal pre-meet would suit young people and he also wished to examine ways in which the agenda items could be created to best engage young people.

 

Ms Worthington advised that she and Adriana Thomas could go through reports with young people and talk to them; if they were unwilling to speak at Panel meetings then perhaps ‘crib sheets’ of their views could be compiled. There was a core of looked after children that had begun to attend Corporate Parenting Panel meetings and it would be desirable to build on this by producing suitable reports. Cllr Bruce asked for separate items, some for both young people and members and others for members only. Ms McShannon advised caution against making the Corporate Parenting Panel too focussed on young people as there was already a Children in Care Council for looked after children; there was a danger that members may become marginalised.  

29.

Any Other Business

Minutes:

None.