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

30.

Apologies for Absence

31.

Minutes of the meeting held on 1 December 2014 and Matters Arising. pdf icon PDF 78 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 1 December 2014 were agreed to be an accurate record.

 

Minute 22 (page 4): Cllr John Todd asked for an update on the timeliness of Looked After Reviews as promised along with a Freedom of Information request regarding Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) data which he had not received. Paul Hewitt, Head of Safeguarding and Quality Assurance, advised that he had recently obtained figures regarding CSE from the police which he would present at the end of the meeting and he would supply the data to Cllr Todd. Please see the attached agenda supplement.

32.

Items from Young People

Minutes:

Adriana Thomas, Participation Officer for Children in Care, advised that officers had discussed the agenda items with young people.

 

With regard to item 8, workshops had been organised around the subject of the transition to semi independence, covering relevant topics such as finance, relationships, DIY etc. Ensuring that people were aware of the events and attended was a challenge; young people present advised that they felt texts and internet forums were among the best methods of publicising events. They were generally happy to sign up for workshops once they’d heard about them. Ms Thomas added that a trip to Thorpe Park had been offered to everyone who attended all the workshops. 

 

Moving to the Staying Put policy (item 7) the young people present agreed that it was a very good idea, with those who preferred to move out still wanting to know that they would receive more support than simply having a social worker’s phone number. One girl who had been in care for a short time was nervous about moving out at 18 and already felt that the foster carer was family; she believed many other young people felt the same. Two other young people at the meeting whished to stay with foster carers until they were 21.

 

Young people had produced the following list of questions regarding the Staying Put policy:

 

1.  What if it is agreed that the young person would benefit, and the young person would like to stay in foster care, but the foster carer doesn’t want to carry on with the placement? Would an alternative arrangement be found?

2.  If the young person has to have a criminal records check – what sort of crimes would mean they can’t live there anymore? What if they had done something when they were really young that the foster carer already knew about?

3. Will it be cheaper for the young person to stay with their foster carer after 18 or move to semi-independence?
4. Will every young person be told about this? How?

 

Ms Thomas advised that officers were working with the West London Alliance to produce model answers for these questions.

 

In addition to the above questions, young people posed two further questions at the meeting:

 

If there are two young people of the same age in the same placement would the foster carer have to choose between them if both of them wanted to stay in the placement?

 

 What is the situation for asylum seekers?

 

A boy at the meeting did not feel that the money offered to fund young people moving out was adequate, even with help regarding budgeting and a girl asked if the relationship with carers would be affected when funding changed at 18. Foster carer Maureen Simpson assured her that carers would always support any youngster who stayed on and Jacqui McShannon advised that the service would aim to continue the home environment in these cases.

 

On the subject of Employability for Care Leavers (item 4) Ms Thomas stated that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 32.

33.

Employability for Care Leavers pdf icon PDF 66 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Please see the report by Anna Dent, Skills and Employment Project Manager (agenda item 4).

 

Ms Dent presented the report, running through key points. She advised that the Skills and Employment Team was new, having been established for only six months. The team was building up relationships with employers with a view to creating opportunities and was currently engaging with young people particularly about apprenticeships in the construction industry. Positive outcomes were already appearing, for example one person had an interview coming up that week. The service had a need to examine why so many looked after children (LAC) were failing to take up opportunities that were presented and ways in which they could be supported. Ms Dent asked if members felt it would be valuable to give information to carers and social workers as well as to LAC. A pilot project was being run with Prospects, an external organisation, which was working very intensively with 20 young people.  Most had been NEET (not in employment, education or training) for at least six months but 15 had now gone into work or training, a very positive outcome. The scheme, which was small but flexible and offered individual support, seemed to be very effective.

 

The Chair asked if sufficient opportunities were available, if information was reaching the right people, and how the council could engage with LAC. He asked for views and comments. In response to questions from Cllr John Todd Ms Dent advised that the service was working with West Thames College and that the Chamber of Commerce was involved in discussions around employment. Mentoring was carried out within the service but there had been little involvement from employers so far. Cllr Tom Bruce commented on the need to inform young people of opportunities and Adriana Thomas advised that motivation was more of an issue as people were aware of opportunities but did not always take them. Cllr Bruce asked how employers could be persuaded to do more to engage with LAC. Ms Dent felt that some employers were already very open to the idea but more support needed to be offered them, perhaps by passing on phone numbers of carers or social workers who could act as intermediaries. Jacqui McShannon agreed that carers were key to this issue and should be as involved as possible. Maureen Simpson stated that carers were crucial in building young people’s self esteem, particularly with regards to helping with interview preparation. Ms Dent advised that her team also offered help with interviews.

 

One of the young people at the meeting said that Teenagers at Work had not been very helpful in her case and had not helped her with CVs or interview advice; she had completed a CV and applied for jobs unassisted and, despite significant work experience and volunteering, had been unsuccessful in over 300 applications. Ms Dent offered assistance. Cllr Harleen Atwal Hear spoke very highly of the help offered to a young family member by the Connexions service. Ms Dent advised  ...  view the full minutes text for item 33.

34.

Virtual College Management Board Update. pdf icon PDF 56 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Please see the report by Penny Stephen, Senior Education Adviser (Vulnerable) (agenda item 5.) Ms Stephen presented the minutes of the first meeting of the Virtual College Management Board (pages 15 to 21).

 

Cllr Tom Bruce stated that the Board meeting had been excellent. However, given that the Virtual College Management Board was accountable to the Corporate Parenting Panel, he was unclear whether it was appropriate for him to be on the Board when he was also Chair of the CPP. Ms Stephen advised that Cllr Bruce should be on the Management Board as Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services, however an additional member of the CPP should also be on the Board. Cllr John Todd confirmed that the minutes called for a member of the CPP to be on the Board along with the Cabinet Member (page 17, paragraph 9). Cllr Candice Atterton asked if young people would be supported to undertake the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and was advised that officers would examine that possibility. Cllr Todd asked if the Board would investigate the discontinuation of maths and English classes and if they held the Pupil Premium Budget. Ms Stephen advised that adult funding was not allowed for education of children under 16 and the service was looking at ways the classes could be funded.  Jacqui McShannon stated that Ofsted had criticised the council for the use of that funding for children in statutory education although officers had believed it to be a good initiative.

 

Cllr Todd asked if the Management Board’s mandate extended to looked after children (LAC) placed out of borough. Ms Stephen advised that it did and that Connexions had made direct contact with 15 and 16 year olds placed out of borough. Where LAC were under 16 a Personal Education Plan could be put in place and it could be ensured that the school acted on that. Adriana Thomas asked how often the Board would meet and when and how long the meetings would be. Ms Stephens advised that they would meet once a term, at 5.30 pm and the meetings would last roughly 90 to 120 minutes; Ms Thomas felt that was suitable for any care leaver recruited to the Board.

35.

The Ride - Ofsted Inspection and Area Risk Assessment pdf icon PDF 79 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Please see the report by Sue Standfield, Unit Manager (agenda item 6.)

 

Bob Spencer, Pathways Head of Placements and Care Leaving Service, presented the report along with a young man who was currently a resident at the Ride.  Mr Spencer advised that when Ofsted carried out an unannounced inspection on 4 January 2015 the inspectors had been impressed by the Ride and also by what they were told by young residents.  Extensive renovation work had been carried out recently which made the house much warmer and lighter as well as far more energy efficient. The resident stated that he had lived there for two years and the building work had made a huge improvement. The staff were highly supportive and the Ride felt like a real home, not an institution.

 

Mr Spencer described the Ofsted ratings as good for all areas except outcomes; management were disappointed with that as they felt that the inspectors had judged only on the absolute outcomes and had failed to take progress made by young people into account. He cited the example of children who had never attended school before but now did after arriving at the Ride, although they were yet to take GCSEs, as an example of the very real progress that the inspection method did not recognise. Area Risk Assessments were a new Ofsted requirement, setting out a need to quantify risks in a given area before young people were placed there along with ways of mitigating those risks. The legal requirement commenced on 1 January 2015 and thanks to work done by Ms Standfield in advance the Ride was fully compliant on 4 January.

 

The resident suggested one way the home could improve would be to work out proper plans to help young people with the transition to semi independence, including financial management, as he felt that young people in care did not always get the best outcomes due to lack of preparedness. A young woman said that she was a former resident of the Ride and found staff there very helpful; they had given great assistance as she moved towards semi independence and had also helped her to realise that she wanted to be with her mother. She described the care and support she had received at the home as very good. 

 

Cllr Harleen Atwal Hear suggested a visit to the home by members. Mr Spencer confirmed that visits would be possible if prearranged; Jacqui McShannon advised that a list of possible dates would be arranged. Cllr John Todd called for evidence to be presented if officers wished to challenge findings by Ofsted.  He asked for clarification of the reference to “inconsistency in records of restraint” (last paragraph, page 29). Mr Spencer advised that staff were trained in correct restraint techniques and any such incidents had to be fully documented and recorded. No one had had to be restrained for the last seven years; whilst the wording implied that there had been more recent incidents this was not  ...  view the full minutes text for item 35.

36.

Staying Put Policy. pdf icon PDF 61 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Please see the report by Bob Spencer, Pathways Head of Placements and West London Commissioning and the attached policy (agenda item 7.)

 

Mr Spencer presented the report.  He advised that young people could stay on in care until they were 21 with the agreement of the carer but as there were no statutory powers for those over 21 that would have to be a private arrangement. Young people did not have the option to stay on if the carer did not agree although it may be possible for the authority to find another carer or use an alternative, such as the supported lodging scheme run by the YMCA. Whilst an outside agency would lose money if they agreed to take part, LB Hounslow would not, however there would still be the loss of a placement for a younger child to consider.

 

Young people asked questions and Mr Spencer advised as follows:

Anyone living in a foster home had to have a DBS check to protect children living there; as a result any offences that would preclude living with children, such as sex offences, would mean that the offender could not remain in the home.

It would be cheaper to stay put for the young people themselves, as even if the carer asked for a contribution it was highly unlikely to match the expense of living independently.

Planning for staying put would begin at the latest at the first review after a young person turned 16; a social worker would speak to the carer to ascertain whether they were happy to take part.

Social workers would help those who stayed put to work towards independence before they turned 21, for example by putting their case to the housing allocation panel and starting the bidding; young people who stayed put would not face any disadvantage when it came to housing.

Asylum seekers are subject to Home Office rules; if those rules meant that the young person was not entitled to support then the Council would carry out a human rights assessment. If no breach was found then support would have to be withdrawn, as the law stated that once appeals were exhausted it was not lawful to offer support unless human rights were breached. In other circumstances asylum seekers would receive the same treatment as any other looked after young people.

If two people wished to stay on with the same carer after 18 there were no anticipated problems but if there were three or more then there could be repercussions with regards to tax and benefits received.  Naturally space considerations would be a separate matter.

 

Ms McShannon thanked Mr Spencer and advised that officers would report back to the Panel in future with information on how the system was working.

37.

WLA Semi Independence Tender Update. pdf icon PDF 59 KB

Minutes:

Please see the report by Bob Spencer, Pathways Head of Placements and West London Commissioning (agenda item 8.)

 

Mr Spencer presented the report. He advised that tenders were being evaluated on both a technical and financial basis; the specifications asked providers to make clear exactly what they were offering, for instance 5 hours face to face or just 3 hours with 2 hours travelling time included. Finance officers were examining whether the figures submitted were realistic and also carrying out checks to ensure that providers were financially viable. There had been a great deal of interest and a large number of tenders had been submitted. Jacqui McShannon advised that the process was intended to regulate a hitherto unregulated market and the Panel would receive an update once the process had been completed. Mr Spencer stated that an update may be possible at the June meeting.

 

38.

Care Leavers from other Boroughs placed in Hounslow. pdf icon PDF 61 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Please see the report by Chris Hyde, Acting Performance and Data Manager (agenda item 9.)

 

Mr Hyde presented the report. Jacqui McShannon advised that the responsibility for looked after children (LAC) placed in other boroughs remained with the authority that placed them, not the host borough, but it was imperative that the host borough was fully aware of all placements. Cllr John Todd asked for clarification on the type of homes referred to. Ms McShannon advised that with regard to 16 and 17 year olds they would mostly be in semi-independent units. Bob Spencer stated that a concern was that many might be in shared houses; there was no regulation calling for change of use planning permission when establishing a children’s home and so the Council may not always be aware of these dwellings. Cllr Todd asked who was responsible for Regulation 33 checks when children were placed in homes out of borough. Ms McShannon advised that Regulation 33 checks were conducted by the authority responsible for the homes; Hounslow carried out the checks on the two homes it ran within the borough and the checks applied only to residential homes, not foster carer’s homes. Mr Spencer added that where LAC were placed out of borough the onus to check was on the authority making the placement, not the host.  Paul Hewitt stated that officers had a list of some of the semi-independent housing providers in the borough and would arrange a meeting with them. Ms McShannon acknowledged there was a need to examine this issue and bring it to the Safeguarding Board.

39.

Regulation 33 Visits. pdf icon PDF 111 KB

Minutes:

Please see the report by Paul Hewitt, Head of Safeguarding Children and Quality Assurance and appendices (agenda item 10).

 

Mr Hewitt presented the report. He advised that members were invited to participate in Regulation 33 visits and that two slots for briefing sessions (on two different days) had been arranged. Under the current arrangement two social workers carried out the visits, which needed to be made unannounced. The model had been commended by Ofsted. Formerly heads of service had carried out the visits but the borough had since commissioned two social workers to ensure independence, while other boroughs used members of their Corporate Parenting Panels. Visits were monthly and were retrospective, ie the visit made in March was concerning February.

 

Cllr John Todd advised that in many boroughs the visits were carried out by members working alone with separate visits by officers and he asked why Hounslow were not planning to follow that model. Cllr Todd felt that a member might see more when working alone and that they would fully guard their independent perspective. Mr Hewitt stated that officers wished to encourage members to volunteer but did not want them to be obliged to write reports for Ofsted. Cllr Todd felt that the real purpose of Reg 33 visits was to speak to the looked after children, not to assess the skills of staff; he was a board member of an adult prison which the Prison Service trusted him to visit alone. Jacqui McShane advised that talking to residents was an essential part of the visits but there was a great deal of paperwork in addition. Cllr Tom Bruce stated that if members wished to visit, that was to be encouraged but Reg 33 visits were central to reports sent to Ofsted. Ms McShane suggested that perhaps officers could deal with paperwork while members spoke to staff and residents.

 

Mr Hewitt advised that although Reg 33 visits were carried out monthly there was no obligation for the same people to conduct each one; members could visit every three or six months for example. Cllr Bruce stated that membership of the Corporate Parenting Panel was currently unknown beyond May and Mr Hewitt advised that visiting members did not need to be on the CPP.

 

Cllr Bruce advised members that they should email Mr Hewitt if they wished to take part, there was no obligation to sign up at the current meeting and they did not need to be on the CPP to carry out Reg 33 visits.

 

 

40.

Any Other Business