To consider a report by the Executive Director of People – Children.
The Corporate Parenting Board considered a report by the Executive Director People – Children on Children in Care and Care Leavers Performance Overview.
The Assistant Director for Commissioning and Partnerships informed the Board the report provided an overview of children in care and care leavers that looked back over the last 6 months and compared Dorset’s performance against other councils nationally as well as with its statistical neighbours, which were councils that had similar characteristics to Dorset. As well as providing an overview of the numbers of children in care, new entries to care and children who had left care, the report showed different legal status of young people with a high proportion accommodated under Section 20. 10% of children in care had a disability and 86% of children had their review completed on time.
On page 30 the graphs showed the movement within the children in care cohort and looked at new children in care. 80 new children had come into care in the last 6 months and 93 had left care which included those children living in Christchurch. 16% of children left care due to adoption. Special Guardianship was low.
One member asked what Special Guardianship was and officers explained the Special Guardianship Court make an order when a child cannot live with their parents but can live with a member of the family or a friend. It was a legal order and people were assessed to ensure they were suitable to look after the child.
Page 31 showed that 70% of children were living in foster care, a reduction from 76%. Almost half of Dorset’s children in care were living in the Council’s own provision. It was explained that some Children Looked After (CLA) were placed out of county and in some cases that would be Bournemouth or Poole and others would be further away. Officers wanted to avoid too many placement moves and work was being undertaken on placement stability.
The Chairman thought it would be useful to have unregulated placements shown in the table.
One member asked why the information showed very low numbers of children being place for adoption. The Assistant Director for Commissioning and Partnerships agreed to investigate the accuracy of the data.
The CLICC representative asked why so many children were placed in Dorset for 2 or more years. Officers informed her that was because for some children staying in care it was the right thing to do and for various reasons being in a long-term foster placement was also the right thing, some young people would stay in care until they could live independently.
The Chairman asked if officers were receiving reports of those children not being seen why were there reports for 12-18 weeks. Officers informed the Board sometimes there was a time lag between someone inputting the system and the visit. This was being addressed. The Chairman commented that if there were outcomes of the visit to be written up and they were not being written up we were failing the young person.
It was noted that the number of missing placements episodes had increased and the Board discussed performance relating to Return to Home interviews. These needed to be completed within 72 hours. Performance needed to be improved both in terms of recording practice and timeliness. Officers explained that multiple teams were undertaking these and that the process required improvement and best practice was that these interviews should be carried out by someone independent to the child’s care plan. Officers would consider a range of options to make the improvements.
There were 221 young people leaving care. The Chairman raised concern at the number of young people who were not in education, employment or training (NEET) and mentioned the possibility of apprenticeships for young people.
Officers confirmed that they were looking at apprenticeship schemes for LAC young carers and there had been a commitment this would be going forward for Dorset young people from the Chief Executive. Local businesses and the Chamber of Commerce would need to be involved.
The Dorset Parent Carer Council member mentioned she could not see any data on those children with EHCP and asked for that to be provided in future reports.
The Assistant Director for Commissioning and Partnerships asked the Board when they would like to see further reports. The Board and Chairman agreed the report should be submitted every quarter.
The Children’s Services Manager, Dorset Advocacy and Independent Visitors Service referred to page 34 and asked what constituted homeless, was it a period of days. The Assistant Director for Commissioning and Partnerships thought it would be useful to know if the authority was in touch with the young person concerned.
One member asked what was meant by other accommodation. The Assistant Director for Commissioning and Partnerships confirmed that in some cases this was a recording issue, with social workers not clear about how to categorise some forms of accommodation. For example, Dorset no longer had Foyer accommodation, but it was common for social workers to use that category to describe supported accommodation.
One member mentioned that the previous authority had looked into obtaining Council Tax exemption for Care Leavers but unfortunately that could not be agreed with the District Councils. He asked that officers look into the feasibility of obtaining Council Tax exemption for Care Leavers. The Assistant Director for Commissioning and Partnerships confirmed she would look into how this was undertaken in other areas and work with others to develop a proposal for Care Leavers in Dorset.
The Chief Executive of Participation People asked if they could work with officers on the language used in reports to make them youth proof.
The Executive Director People – Children asked when producing performance reports for the next quarter comparisons with the previous quarter’s performance be included.
The Corporate Parenting Officer enquired of the Chairman whether the Board meeting should be a public meeting. The Chairman felt the intention was to be as open and transparent as possible although there would be some areas of the Board meeting which would go into closed session for the protection of young people.
The Chief Executive of Participation People considered that from their perspective it would be a barrier as young people would be nervous if members of the public were present. The Chairman explained that if young people were attending the meeting that would be in closed session and not open to the general public.
1. That unregulated placements be shown in the table in future.
2. That data relating to the number of children with an EHCP be provided in future reports.
3. That future reports be considered by the Board every quarter.
4. That the Assistant Director for Commissioning and Partnerships develop a proposal for Council Tax exemption for Dorset Care Leavers.
5. That future performance reports include comparison with previous quarters.
6. That all meetings of the Board be open to the public although some areas of the Board meeting would go into closed session for the protection of young people.