To consider a report by the Executive Director of People – Children.
The Corporate Parenting Board considered a discussion paper by the Executive Director of People - Children on LAC Reduction.
Officers explained the discussion paper was about the number of children Dorset Council had in care. It was about basing services for children on the principle of the right to a family life, and how we should be designing services that enable children to live safely with their family or in a family setting. A great deal of data had been mapped and the University of Warwick had plotted how the centile of deprivation influenced the likelihood of state intervention in family life. Children living in the least deprived areas had little chance of being in care whereas children living in the most deprived areas had a much greater chance of being in care.
LAC numbers had gone up in recent years although that did not always bear any relationship to the level of deprivation within the local authority area. It was interesting to note that if you lived in a deprived part of a relatively affluent place the chances of coming into care would shoot up. For example, if you compared Weymouth to the East End of London you would be more likely to be in care in Weymouth than in the urban area. Warwick University were still researching this.
The discussion paper had a summary of about how things changed in Dorset and an analysis about Dorset’s care population and where there was the potential to make a difference and options on how a difference could be made. This was not primarily about cost saving, but was about the right to family life and good outcomes - children in care are less likely to do as well as their peers in the population at large.
Members thought the discussion paper was very interesting and a very well written. Some felt the transfer of the youth centres to community groups had not been a good decision and hoped funding for youth centres would be found as they could help young people look after their children. It was also felt there was an interlink between the 2 residential homes that had closed.
The Chairman confirmed that Homestart provided a good service in the west of the County where there was an exceptional group, but that was not the case in the east of the County where they were not so good. She explained that the People Scrutiny Committee were looking at youth centres at the present time and she would be happy to champion this and was also a member of the People Scrutiny Committee.
One member asked why Dorset was not replicating what Leeds were doing to enable early intervention and was it about leadership and the ethos in Leeds. Officers explained that Leeds started changing about 5 years ago and an awful lot of things needed to be changed. It was about Leeds and the city becoming child friendly. Family group meetings took place to establish whether the family could look after the child before the child came into care. Officers would be visiting Leeds shortly and were also looking a North Tyneside and North Yorkshire who also had good practice.
The Executive Director of People – Children explained this was a huge cultural issue they were at present talking with youth offending about tolerances. Participation People were looking at Happy Dorset which would continue for a couple of years.
The Chief Executive of Participation People confirmed that young people were eager for this conversation. A student voice toolkit was being launched in the Autumn. Work was also being carried out around child exploitation which was a snap chat conversation.
Members mentioned that part of the problem was that families did not want to engage as they did not see the way they behaved as an issue. There was an area in Ferndown where there was a nursery and children’s centre. The nursery was very effective and families trusted the head but the children’s centre was ineffective. It was noted that schools and nurseries would notice if something was wrong and closer working with them was important. It was the first 1,000 days of a child’s life which would set the scene of how that child’s life would be.
One member was interested in the difference between Dorset and urban authorities. Officers confirmed the majority of children in care in Dorset were subject to a Court Order. The other issue was about life chances - in the East End of London over the course of a child’s life there were more opportunities and more going on culturally than in Weymouth, Great Yarmouth or Blackpool.
Chief Executive of Participation People commented that in terms of what young people were saying it was about valuing and listening to them, understanding the individual’s needs and working with family partnership zones.
One member asked why the family partnership zones had not directly brought down the number of children in care. Officers explained that early help services were not necessarily edge of care services, but that over time early help services would be advantageous.
The Chairman highlighted how members saw the importance of early intervention. She still thought that was the right focus for the Board’s endeavours, but could well investigate further other areas.
The Executive Director of People – Children confirmed they had focussed on early years and children’s centres and youth services and spoken about the culture in communities and, having regard to children in Dorset, did not underestimate the impact of exclusions on families. Voluntary organisations also had a massive contribution to make. There was no one single thing - it was a whole system reform that would help young people and keep them with their families.
The Chairman asked as work progressed on the whole system review that this came back to Corporate Parenting Board so the Board could see how things were changing and enabling young people to have a better deal. The Executive Director of People – Children confirmed there were several distinct pieces of work and the golden thread through all of that was the voice of the child. She was happy to come back to a future meeting to share with the Board how work was progressing.
That the Executive Director of People – Children provide a report on how work was progressing to the 16 January 2020 meeting of the Board.