Agenda and minutes
Venue: Council Chamber, Priory House, Monks Walk, Shefford
Contact: Leslie Manning 0300 300 5132
To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting of the Corporate Parenting Panel held on 9 November 2015 (copy attached).
The minutes of the meeting of the Corporate Parenting Panel held on 9 November 2015 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
To receive from Members any declarations of interest.
Chairman's Announcements and Communications
To receive any announcements from the Chairman and any matters of communication.
The Chairman welcomed one of the Children in Care Council representatives to this, his first meeting of the Panel. She then advised that she had raised the matter of wider Member support for the Panel’s work at a recent Members’ briefing and, arising from this, welcomed Councillor Firth.
The Chairman advised the meeting that Hazel Phillips MBE, a long term foster carer and foster carer representative on the Panel, had recently retired from the role of carer and representative. On behalf of the Panel the Chairman extended her thanks to Mrs Phillips for both her lifetime work as a foster carer and for her contribution to, and support of, the Panel. She asked that Mrs Phillips be kept informed of local foster carer developments and that she be invited to attend future meetings of the Panel. The meeting noted that Mrs Phillips would continue to contribute to local foster care by providing advice and assistance.
The Chairman welcomed foster carer representative Pat Albone to his first meeting of the Panel.
The Chairman referred to the event entitled ‘Corporate Parenting – Taking it to the Next Level’ held in London last November and thanked Councillor Goodchild for attending the event with Children in Care Council representatives. She added that a second Member had been due to attend but he had withdrawn at the last moment and there had been insufficient time for her to arrange to attend in his place.
The Chairman next referred to a forthcoming workshop in February and she stated that she would encourage all members of the Council to attend (minutes CPP/15/26 and CPP/15/29 also refer).
Turning next to the Panel’s work programme the Chairman referred to the ‘spotlight reports’ listed and how they were both an alternative means of presenting Looked After Children’s and care leavers’ experiences and provide an opportunity for Members to understand the challenges faced. She felt that the use of spotlight reports would encourage Members to attend meetings rather than rely on written reports for their information.
To consider a report on the CiCC representation on the Panel.
The Panel considered a report setting out the proposed development of the Children in Care Council (CiCC). The meeting noted that the CiCC was currently composed of eight young people of which four were able to attend Panel meetings and four were unable to do so because of college attendance or employment. The meeting also noted that the Young Voices Group was made up of children in care between the ages of 8-15. The young people attended activity based participation and took part in informal consultation and formal consultation days. None of the young people were able to attend the Panel due to school, although other meetings had been arranged between them and Members. In addition some of the young people had been involved in meetings with the Children’s Minister and Children’s Commissioner in addition to the consultation on the Independent Review Officers.
It was now proposed that the Young Voices Group become the new CiCC. The current CiCC members would become Ambassadors with the role of supporting the younger group including representing them and being their voice at the Panel. The Ambassadors could also develop their own group as Leaving Care Young People. That group would focus on leaving care issues and invite other leaving care young people to attend.
The Panel noted that it was intended that the newly formed CiCC would meet during the school holidays to focus on the experience of being in care. The CiCC work plan could be developed with the Panel and any specific consultations required by the Panel could be included. Members of the Panel would be invited to attend the CiCC’s meetings or specific consultation days could be arranged during the school holidays. The Panel noted that the Executive Member had already expressed an interest in holding an informal meeting of young people from the CiCC and elected Members.
Following an introduction by a CiCC representative full discussion took place on the proposed changes. The Assistant Director Children’s Services Operations emphasised that the Young Voices Group was highly active and experienced and this richness was not currently being represented at Panel meetings. The changes would also provide the opportunity for reports to be presented in alternative formats such as videos and he acknowledged that this needed to be considered further.
In view of the limitations placed on the younger Looked After Children by school attendance the Director of Children’s Services proposed that Panel meetings start at 4.00 p.m. The Panel welcomed this proposal.
A CiCC representative then advised the Panel of a forthcoming workshop at Leighton Buzzard Youth Centre on 17 February 2016. She explained that the aim of the workshop was to enable the Young Voices Group to meet Members and for both groups to exchange ideas and discuss issues of mutual importance such as the Care Matters Pledge. The Assistant Director Children’s Services Operations also referred to the possible need to refresh the pledge for residential workers.
1 that the Young Voices Group become the ... view the full minutes text for item 26.
To consider an update to the report titled ‘Meeting the Housing and Support Needs of Vulnerable Young People’ submitted to the Corporate Parenting Panel in October 2014.
Members considered a report which provided an update to that submitted to the Panel on 13 October 2014 (minute CPP/14/24 refers). The original report had affirmed the housing service commitment to fulfilling the Council’s responsibility as a corporate parent within the context of a strategic housing agenda.
The Head of Housing Solutions introduced the report and advised that significant changes had been made since the meeting in 2014. The Panel noted the action taken in three main areas, these being:
· Improving access to Council and housing association tenancies
· Improving access to specialist supported accommodation for vulnerable young people
· Improving operational collaboration.
Members were also advised of a number of proposed next steps albeit against the background of efficiencies and housing pressures, in particular a reduced number of social housing lettings.
The Chairman acknowledged the improvements which had been made but stated that, as this area of responsibility was still relatively new to her, she had still to understand what young people’s views were on the issue of housing and what constituted appropriate housing for them.
The Head of Housing Solutions stated that housing provision for Care Leavers varied. Further the type of housing available in the future was likely to be affected by the impact of welfare reforms and it was possible that shared housing for young people, using the Amicus Housing Trust model, might be developed for Care Leavers. He stressed, however, that there was no standard housing provision for Care Leavers and what was considered appropriate was determined by individual need/suitability. The Head of Corporate Parenting also emphasised the importance of welfare reform impact given that Care Leavers were often dependant on housing benefit. He added that whilst Care Leavers often wanted self contained accommodation some were not ready to take on this responsibility. He added that identifying the funding stream for post 18 Care Leavers could also be challenging.
In response to a Member’s query both the Head of Corporate Parenting and the Head of Housing Solutions explained that joint working between colleagues across Directorates took place on the assessment of Care Leavers housing type suitability. The Head of Housing Solutions stressed that landlords wanted assurance that an individual tenancy was sustainable and needed confidence that a young person was able to take on this responsibility.
A Member sought information on the numbers of those young people leaving care, what accommodation they were being provided with and whether it was approved by the Council. She also asked how the safeguarding element was accessed, especially if a young person was being housed as the result of an emergency. The Member expressed concern that some Care Leavers would not be able to cope in such situations. The Assistant Director of Children’s Services Operations acknowledged the need to bring forward detail and experience on these issues for the Panel to consider. He acknowledged that some individuals had experienced difficulties regarding accommodation and he undertook to provide a ‘spotlight report’ on this issue.
The Director of Children’s Services stressed the importance ... view the full minutes text for item 27.
To consider a report setting out the remit of the Adoption Support Fund and how the Council is making use of it.
The Panel considered a report which set out the remit for the Adoption Support Fund and explained how the Council was making use of the Fund. The meeting noted that the Fund was provided through the Department for Education to extend adoptive families access to therapy. Following the assessment of a family’s needs a council could apply to the Adoption Support Fund for funding. Each application was considered on a case by case basis. If the funding was approved then the therapy could be provided by a council’s adoption support service, the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), other public sector services or by an independent sector provider. The meeting noted that on 1 May 2015 the sum of £19.3m was made available nationally to fund the first year.
The Panel noted that the Fund arose out of recognition that many adopted children had experienced difficult and traumatic care before being placed for adoption. This could prevent them from settling into their new home and could create difficulties at particular stages such as adolescence. The aim of the therapy provided through the Fund therefore was to achieve positive outcomes for the child and adoptive family.
Members also noted that, as of 30 November 2015, Central Bedfordshire Council was offering intensive adoption support to seventeen families with a total of twenty children. Six of these families had been identified as requiring a therapeutic service or assessment and applications to the Fund had been completed and agreed. These families were currently receiving therapeutic services from external providers from the independent sector. A further four families had been assessed as requiring a therapeutic intervention and applications to the Fund were in the process of being completed.
In response to a question by the Chairman the Head of Corporate Parenting stated that, before the Adoption Support Fund was introduced, funding for such care had to be found by individual local authorities. The Assistant Director Children’s Services Operations added that it was unusual for the government to fund individual care packages but the Fund, together with the forthcoming regionalisation of the adoption service to improve efficiency, formed part of the government’s national strategy to encourage adoption. The Assistant Director Children’s Services Operations explained that the government favoured greater emphasis on a family environment and a belief in the primacy of adoption as a means of achieving this for children in the care system. He added that a report on the impact of the government’s policies, including the changes to the family court system, would be submitted to the Panel.
The Director of Children’s Services stated that the provision of the Adoption Support Fund for those involved in the adoption process had raised expectations considerably but if it were to be withdrawn then it generate a significant budgetary pressure.
In response to a Member’s query the Adoption Practice Manager stated that the government had made the sum of £10m available for the Fund’s second year.
the report on the remit of the Adoption Support ... view the full minutes text for item 28.
To consider the Panel’s work programme.
Members considered a report which set out the Panel’s work programme for the remainder of the 2015/16 municipal year.
The meeting was aware that additional items had already been added to the work programme (minutes CPP/15/27 and CPP/15/28 above refer).
The Director of Social Care, Health and Housing queried how it would be possible to capture the wider Council role as a corporate parent. A Member commented on the difficulty which arose because responsibility for Council services for Looked After Children was spread across a range of stakeholders. He stated that, in order to create a regular, comprehensive viewpoint some form of co-ordination was necessary.
A Member referred to the forthcoming workshop on 17 February (minute CPP/15/26 above also refers) as a means to help establish what Looked After Children wanted and emphasised the need to listen to Looked After Children to gain this knowledge. She also felt that all Members should be encouraged to attend the workshop.
In response to a Member’s query the Assistant Director Children’s Services Operations commented that the Panel functioned well, enjoyed good attendance and considered a range of report topics. However, whilst the February workshop would provide an opportunity to consider and refresh certain matters he was uncertain as to whether there was a wider area of support for the Panel’s work beyond that of its membership.
1 that a proposal on how to co-ordinate information relating to the Council’s role as corporate parent be submitted to the Panel for consideration;
2 that officers be invited to attend the CiCC workshop on 17 February 2016.