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

41.

Apologies for Absence

42.

Minutes of the meeting held on 3 March 2015 and Matters Arising pdf icon PDF 70 KB

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 3 March 2015 were agreed to be an accurate record.

 

Minute 39: Regulation 33 Visits Jacqui McShannon advised that training would be provided to elected members who wished to conduct Regulation 33 visits.

43.

Items from Young People pdf icon PDF 76 KB

A campaign to improve young people’s experiences of the transition to semi-independence.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Please see the report by the Children in Care Council (agenda item 3).

 

Emma Worthington, Participation Officer for Children in Care, introduced the seven young people attending the meeting. She advised that Adriana Thomas, Participation Manager for Children in Care, had been working with older members of the Children in Care Council (CiCC) for a year on a campaign to improve the experiences of transition to semi-independence for 16 to 18 year olds. Members of the CiCC had attended Semi-Independence Skills Workshops and had outlined the four areas they wished to focus on (outlined in the report) which were “Preparing for Independence”, “Messages to my younger self”, “Supporting foster carers to prepare young people for moving on” and “Leaving care age raised to 21 – what’s happening in Hounslow?”  Ms Worthington stated that officers had given a lot of thought to ways of encouraging young people to attend the sessions; a trip to Thorpe Park had been arranged and student social workers invited to participate. The workshops had included courses on money management and conflict resolution.

 

One of the young people present described working as part of a team of 15, 13 of whom had completed the sessions; he stated that they all very much wanted the workshops to be repeated. There had been similar events in the past but this one had attracted a great deal of attention and a significant number of people had attended. Cllr Candice Atterton said it should be considered and asked if he meant that a different group of young people should attend next year if the workshops were to be repeated; the young man confirmed that would be the case. Another young person stated that she had found the sessions to be very helpful, particularly the money management course as she had experienced difficulty with finances and had learned a lot. She had also learned useful advice on DIY and running her own home.

 

Ms Worthington expressed the hope that members would agree to fund future workshops, at least bi-annually. Issues that could be addressed in future included support for foster carer training and development of quality assurance for providers through the West London Alliance.

 

Foster carer Maureen Simpson stated that she had been very impressed by “Message to My Young Self” as it was so important that the next group of care leavers could benefit from those experiences. Ms Worthington advised that a message, updated yearly, was sent to all young people in care each May; she agreed that advice from other young people based on recent personal experience carried far more weight than information from professionals.  Cllr Paul Lynch felt there was a great need to coordinate work with foster carers who should assist youngsters to prepare for independence much earlier, for example teaching them to cook from around the age of 13 or 14. Ms Worthington agreed, stating that Total respect courses were run at half term to enable young people to attend but this was often unsuitable  ...  view the full minutes text for item 43.

44.

Westbrook Ofsted Reports pdf icon PDF 218 KB

 

 

Report by Phil Hopkins, Team Manager, Children with a Disability Team.

 

Minutes:

Please see the report by Phil Hopkins, Team Manager, Children with a Disability Team (agenda item 4).

 

Mr Hopkins attended the meeting accompanied by Westbrook Short Break Unit (WSBU) Manager Cleopatra Showers and Residential Support Worker Ravi Phull, along with two residents.

 

Mr Hopkins read through the report (pages 24 to 26.) He advised that the home catered for residents as well as offering short break and a youth club. There had been two inspections, one full and one short follow up that only looked at certain areas. Jacqui McShannon, Assistant Director, Children's Safeguarding and Specialist Services, stated that both reports were very positive overall and commented that the warm language used by Ofsted reflected her own observations on the standard of care. The Westbrook residents agreed that the home was a good place to live and also offered excellent training/educational aspects.

 

Cllr Paul Lynch endorsed everything said in the report as consistent with his own experience. He had always found the young people happy and engaged when he visited and the short breaks and youth club facility were very highly spoken of. Cllr John Todd referred to the section of the report regarding leadership and management, which implied that senior management should respond more. Ms McShannon advised that there had been some “churn” within management but arrangements had since been addressed. Ofsted had acknowledged that following their second visit. She advised that a new lock that could be opened in the event of fire would be fitted by the end of the year; other recommendations had all been acted on.

45.

Missing LAC pdf icon PDF 208 KB

Report by Paul Hewitt, Head of Safeguarding Children and Quality Assurance.

 

Minutes:

Please see the report by Paul Hewitt, Head of Safeguarding Children and Quality Assurance (agenda item 8).

 

Paul Hewitt and Sally Greig, Safeguarding Adviser, spoke to the report. Mr Hewitt advised that the subject of missing looked after children (LAC) was a complex one and there was a great deal of written material produced by government bodies interested in the issue. The Department for Education had issued guidance and the Home Office, police and the Ministry of Justice also had an interest. Ofsted and the Children’s Society collected data and all these bodies used different methods of counting. Mr Hewitt advised that he would try to simplify the matter as far as possible. There were over 300 LAC in the borough and they were not prone to going missing; the term “missing” was open to potential serious misinterpretation. The media often quoted data about prevalence which could be misleading, for example implying that “missing” LAC had disappeared but that was not necessarily so. The counting method used was an important factor and the report and appendices gave an idea of that; one showed how missing LAC were recorded in Hounslow. Often what was counted was the number of individual episodes, of which there were a large number, however a there were relatively few individual children involved. A small cohort of 29 or 30 LAC went missing on a large number of occasions. “Missing” did not mean that no one knew where they were, simply that they may have stayed out longer then they were allowed.

 

Mr Hewitt stated that considerable effort had been put into ensuring that the borough’s recording system was the right one and data was collected correctly. Where it was known that LAC were at risk officers need to join up efforts with the police to track them and also to work with the young people to stop them putting themselves at risk. Good practice was essential so that when children did go missing arrangements were in place to mobilise quickly and manage the risk. Appendix 2 was the “grab pack” which Sally Gregg had helped to develop. This was a package of information which could be shared quickly with the police and other agencies. Among its contents were known associates and addresses, social media contacts and so on. This was invaluable in assisting the police to pick up vulnerable young people quickly and had been commended by the police.

 

Ms Greig agreed that understanding of counting methods were highly important. She had extensive experience of dealing with the most vulnerable LAC. The issue of LAC going missing was a serious concern and Ms Greig was very proud of the grab packs, which had been created by her, Sue Standfield, Senior Residential Social Worker at the Ride, and the police. Historically incidents had been dealt with individually as they occurred but now, using the packs, it was possible to quickly know where the child went on previous occasions, any factors that may increase vulnerability and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 45.

46.

Fostering Annual Report 2014 -15 pdf icon PDF 58 KB

Report by Tom O’Neill, Fostering Team Manager.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Please see the report by Tom O’Neill, Fostering Team Manager (agenda item 6).

 

Mr O’Neill spoke to the report. He highlighted the success of the Foster Team in placing more children with in-house foster carers (paragraph 23) and also the initial enquiries and initial visits undertaken (paragraphs 30 and 31). The public had made 228 enquiries about becoming foster carers and officers had carried out 22 initial visits. Ten carers had been recruited and a further seven applications had been closed after the initial visit. There had been an unusually large number of resignations and two carers had been deregistered but the net number of carers had risen by one. There had been a continued improvement in recruitment and a record number of children (148) placed in-house. The website and other publicity materials had been updated accordingly. The internet and social media were now the most important means of spreading awareness and recruiting foster carers, rather than word of mouth as in the past. Research and information exchanges had been conducted with other boroughs and it had been found that Hounslow did as well as, if not better then, other boroughs.

 

Director of Children's and Adults' Services Alan Adams congratulated the Fostering Team on their work and commented that 12% of applications had come via ‘Hounslow Matters’; he asked if officers thought it would be a good idea to place advertising for foster carers every quarter. He also asked if large scale campaigns should be mounted as he had seen in other boroughs. Mr O’Neill advised that ‘Hounslow Matters’ had indeed been very effective but a poster campaign on buses had been a lot less cost effective. He acknowledged that this was the province of the council’s Communications Team. He would like to see advertising in every issue of ‘Hounslow Matters’, which had also carried advertorials, and would look at an increased internet presence in future. Most recruitment of foster carers took place within a 20 mile radius. One of the young people advised that her own foster carers had been featured in a poster and people had shown a great deal of interest, asking them a lot of questions, so she felt that the poster campaign had been effective. Mr O’Neill felt that was highly encouraging.

 

Cllr John Todd congratulated Mr O’Neil on a good report and asked for clarification of the unannounced visits referred to in paragraph 24 of the report. Mr O’Neill advised that a supervising social worker undertook the visits, which could occur at any time. They inspected the home to assess its safety and cleanliness, checking items such as fire alarms and electrical systems along with the garden etc. The children were not always present but the inspecting social workers spoke to them privately on occasion.   Cllr Todd asked where the data was held and Mr O’Neill advised that it was held in the team’s office and could be seen on request. Cllr Todd asked the data on sexual complaints was included; Jacqui McShannon advised  ...  view the full minutes text for item 46.

47.

LAC & CSE pdf icon PDF 185 KB

Report by Paul Hewitt, Head of Safeguarding Children and Quality Assurance.

Minutes:

Please see the report by Paul Hewitt, Head of Safeguarding Children and Quality Assurance (agenda item 9).

 

Paul Hewitt outlined the report (see pages 70 to 73).

 

Lianne Conway, Exploitation and Vulnerabilities Co-ordinator, advised that most young people did not always recognise child sexual exploitation (CSE) for what it was and the service was raising awareness. The Borough’s Multi-Agency Sexual Exploitation (MASE) panel had identified 18 young people that were a cause for concern; 12 were looked after children (LAC), one was a care leaver and the remaining five were former LAC who had returned to their families. LAC were particularly vulnerable to CSE but teams now felt themselves better equipped to identify possible cases and help. There were plans to screen all young people placed out of borough as well as looking at young people placed within Hounslow by other boroughs, although more information was needed for the latter. Officers looked at children missing from education as well as from home.

 

Cllr Tom Bruce praised the work carried out and asked if everyone had seen the “SAFEGUARD” mnemonic, which stands for:

Sexual health and behaviour

Absent from school or repeatedly running away

Familial abuse and/or problems at home

Emotional and physical condition

Gangs, older age groups and involvement in crime

Use of technology and sexual bullying

Alcohol and drug misuse

Receipt of unexplained gifts or money

Distrust of authority figures

 

Members confirmed that they were aware of the mnemonic which Cllr Bruce felt was too long to be effective. Cllr Paul Lynch endorsed the Chair’s comments. Mr Hewitt acknowledged that it could be improved.

 

Cllr Lynch asked for clarification of the statement that young people were not always aware of their own exploitation. Ms Conway advised that officers were aware of cases where young people did not recognise that they were being exploited. Resources such as the NSPCC’s “Protect and Respect” were available that young people could be referred to. At the moment there was very little information available on perpetrators but officers shared what they did have with the police. Mr Hewitt stated that it was quite common for young people not to see themselves as victims and very sensitive language needed to be used when raising the subject. Victims in fact often felt better off, especially if given cash, clothes etc and they felt they had more freedom. Phone apps were now available to help young people think through their experiences.  The Chair noted that lack of awareness was a striking feature of cases in Rotherham and elsewhere where abuse victims didn’t recognise what was happening and the police had accepted that. The attitude of the police had changed completely now and the matter was a very high priority.

 

Cllr John Todd commented that members in Rotherham had not been told of the situation by officers and said that he felt ignorant now with regard to young people placed out of borough. Police protocol was that the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 47.

48.

The Ride pdf icon PDF 60 KB

Report by Bob Spencer, Head of Placements and West London Commissioning.

Additional documents:

49.

Housing & Social Care pdf icon PDF 235 KB

Report by Bob Spencer, Head of Placements and West London Commissioning and Jennifer Hopper, Resource Innovation Manager.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

This item was not discussed and will be raised at the next meeting of the Panel.

50.

Performance Report, 2014 -15 Q4 pdf icon PDF 58 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Please see the report by Chris Hyde, Acting Performance and Data Manager (agenda item 10).

 

Chris Hyde outlined the report (see pages 78 to 100). He advised that there was an error in section 5 (page 86) – the report stated that there had been 328 looked after children (LAC) at the end of 2013; this should read 317.

 

The Chair, Cllr Tom Bruce, asked if figures for member complaints were available. Mr Hyde advised that he had been informed that the figures were unreliable. He stressed that this did not mean that complaints had not been dealt with, but that the system of recording needed improvement. Jacqui McShannon commented that figures were disappointing for education, employment and training for care leavers. Alan Adams thanked Mr Hyde for producing a high quality report. He felt that more work was needed on early help and much more needed to be done to improve services for older children in care; there had been a decrease in the overall number of LAC which meant that a higher percentage were now in the older age group. He asked for full figures to be made available, particularly regarding education and employment and pledged to obtain an update from Ofsted. Cllr Candice Atterton asked if help was available for care leavers to find accommodation. Ms McShannon advised that large sums of money were spent on accommodation for care leavers but officers would examine ways of expanding the range available, especially for young people with high needs.

 

 

51.

Any Other Business