To consider a report by the Executive Director of People – Children.
The Senior Manager Placements and Resources explained that unregulated placements were temporary in nature. The challenge had been ending the placements and moving young people to regulated settings. Dorset was not unique and the picture was improving, it was hoped that in about a week’s time the authority would only have 3 young people in unregulated placements, previously there had been 9. There were, however, 2 young people for whom it was extremely difficult to find a suitable placement.
An unregulated placement was defined by government as caravan type accommodation or bed and breakfast accommodation, Dorset avoided using bed and breakfast, or holiday rental cottage accommodation. On occasion an agency may be contacted to provide a placement and staff.
The Executive Director for People – Children explained that on occasion there would be a placement break down and a child had to be placed somewhere very quickly the best option would be to place them in a placement with Dorset staff.
The Senior Manager Placements and Resources confirmed the Council had acquired the Caretakers Bungalow at Colehill First School which had been refurbished and redecorated and would soon be ready for use as emergency accommodation within Dorset. The Council was also inviting foster carers to become retained foster carers to provide short term accommodation. The Executive Director for People – Children mentioned not all unregulated placements were in county. Two placements were, at present, in Somerset. Officers were working closely with Somerset County Council to look at what could be achieved around placement providers and sharing.
The Executive Director for People – Children confirmed they were currently developing re-establishing a children’s home within the county to hopefully reduce the need to use unregulated placements.
The Senior Manager Placements and Resources explained one young person had a number of placements which had broken down and they had been placed in an unregulated placement and had been there for 8 months now and want to stay where they were. They had a good relationship with the staff and they wanted to stay where they were, any change would be extremely disruptive and harmful to them at present. A review plan of unregulated placements was regularly undertaken and officers visited weekly. They were constantly reviewing the search to ensure the best welfare of the child.
One member referred to one of the case studies in the report where the young person had 22 placements to date and asked over what period of time were the placements.
Officers explained in that particular case several arrangements had broken down over a period of time.
The Chairman asked how long the young person had been in the care system and how many moves had taken place. Officers mentioned the Psychologists had advised the young person should not be moved and that reviews were undertaken every 4 weeks. The young person had provided a pen picture of what he would like.
One member, although very pleased to hear the bungalow would be used for emergency placements was concerned about the quality of the accommodation inside the bungalow and whether it was safe.
The Chairman mentioned that whatever the authority did had to be right for that young person and Corporate Parenting Board had another remit, not only the young person’s safety, but also the reputation and safety of the Council. The Executive Director for People – Children commented that Ofsted at the annual conversation held during March 2019 reported they were pleased with Dorset’s transparency regarding placements.
The Corporate Parenting Officer suggested she and one of the members of the Board visit the caretaker’s bungalow to ensure the accommodation was in a good condition.
Councillors Andrew Parry, Toni Coombs and Richard Biggs all agreed they would like to visit the bungalow.
The Executive Director for People – Children explained the authority were looking into establishing 3 residential homes located in close geographical area to one another as it would be more sustainable, and also looking at one of the authority’s farms where therapeutic treatment could be provided.
One member commented that he had visited Shropshire County Council’s farmhouse, the location was quite isolated and resulted in low level absconding. He commented that the authority needed to have a much more open conversation with Ofsted regarding unregulated placements.
Officers confirmed they would ensure that Ofsted were regularly updated regarding the authority’s use of unregulated placements. This would include the numbers, the duration, those ended and those commenced.
The Chairman commented that if a young person was in an unregulated placement for 300 days, and if that placement was deemed to be suitable and it was working, what could be done to make it a regulated placement.
Officers explained the challenge was that there were some young people who were placed in unregulated placements because they abscond and take very risky actions. The current providers of regulated placements were not prepared to offer accommodation to these young people, which left no alternative other than to place them in unregulated placements. Ultimately the authority required more foster carers and its own residential placement.
The Children's Services Manager, Dorset Advocacy and Independent Visitors Service asked if it would be possible to have the names of the young people to ensure they were being provided with Advocacy. Officers agreed to let her have the names.
The Chairman referred to page 46 of the report and asked why the EHCP had been declined and what could be done to ensure this was not repeated. Officers informed the Board there had been a request for an EHCP unfortunately the request from school was not supportive and school felt they could manage the young person in school. Mum appealed and officers were in dialogue with SEN as they felt the young person should have an EHCP assessment.
The Executive Director for People – Children thought the majority of Dorset schools were quite liberal with the requests for EHCP’s.
One member referred to the Care Plan and asked whether that was on course to happen in July 2019. Officers commented that unfortunately it was not as the builder had let them down. One officer confirmed he would look into the builders the Council used to see if they could assist with the work.
The Chief Executive of Participation People thought it might be a good idea for Care Leavers (and Children) in Care Council (CLICC) to start a campaign regarding placing young people in unregulated settings and felt the young person attending the Board meeting might like to start the campaign. The Board thought that would be a good idea if she was happy to do so.
The Chairman asked for a progress report on action taken at the next meeting of the Board.
1. That the Corporate Parenting Officer arrange a visit to the caretaker’s bungalow at Colehill School with Councillors Richard Biggs, Toni Coombs and Andrew Parry.
2. That officers regularly update Ofsted regarding the authority’s use of unregulated placements. This would include the numbers, the duration, those ended and those commenced.
3. That officers provide the Children’s Services Manager, Dorset Advocacy and Independent Visitors Service with the names of the young people in unregulated placements to ensure they were being provided with Advocacy.
4. That the Senior Manager Placements and Resources contact the builders used by Dorset Council to see if they could assist with building work.
5. That the CLICC start a campaign about placing young people in unregulated settings.
6. That officers provide a progress report on action taken at the next meeting of the Board on 15 July 2019.