Meeting documents

Corporate Parenting Panel
Wednesday, 26th April, 2017

Corporate Parenting Panel Minutes

Date:
Wednesday 26th April 2017
Time:
05:00 p.m.
Place:
The Council Chamber at the town hall, Katharine Street, Croydon CR0 1NX
 

Attendance Details

Present:

Councillor P Clouder, Councillor A Flemming, Councillor M Gatland, Councillor B Khan, Councillor S Khan, Councillor A Rendle, Councillor A Stranack

Also present:
Jo Negrini (Croydon Council CEO), Tim Sugden (IRO), Looked After Children and their foster carers.

Ian Lewis, Sarah Baker, Wendy Tomlinson, Oretha Wofford, Gill Manton, Dionne Sang, Ilona Kytomaa (clerk)
Apologies for absence:
Apologies for lateness from Councillors Shafi Khan and Pat Clouder

Item Item/Resolution
MINUTES - PART A
A9/17 MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING

RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting be agreed and signed by the Chair.

A10/17 DISCLOSURE OF INTEREST

None.

A11/17 URGENT BUSINESS (IF ANY)

None.

A12/17 EXEMPT ITEMS

None.

A13/17 LOOKING AFTER THE RIGHT CHILDREN

Officers introduced this item with a brief overview of the national and Croydon contexts.

 

They stressed that a range of approaches were used to provide support to families and avoid taking children into care if at all possible. These included measures under the "Early Help" service or the "Children in Need" service. Where a social worker deems it necessary that a child should come into care and has the support of their manager, he or she will present the matter to the Edge of Care Panel, chaired by the Head of the Children in Need Service.

Officers confirmed that the National Transfer Scheme was now live. This involves referring any new arrivals to the Scheme if an authority has a proportion of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) of more than 0.07% of their overall child population. Croydon's UASC population is considerably over this threshold and the borough leads on an established protocol for new arrivals aged 16 and 17 within London. Officers stated that while numbers of UASC had risen last year, they were now stabilising.

 

The Panel discussed adoption in Croydon. Members were advised that Croydon officers would be involved in scoping the London Regional Adoption Agency, which had been established to reduce costs and improve the life chances of vulnerable children, whom it is more difficult to match with suitable adoptive parents.

 

The Panel questioned officers regarding long-term matching of young people to carers. They asked whether any discussion took place at an early stage regarding the possibility of future adoption. Officers explained that the recruitment of "Foster to Adopt" carers involved a dual approval process and was usually followed for carers of very young children. There also existed a possibility for a foster carer to adopt a young person in the long term. Members asked whether officers suggested such an option proactively or simply followed up foster carers' expressed interest in doing so. Officers explained that a care order was obtained if a child was not initially approved for adoption. After one year, the foster carer is entitled to apply for a special guardianship or adoption but the latter avenue can be opposed by a biological parent.

 

Members noted that there were currently 54 Looked After Children on a Section 20 Care order and asked whether this number was likely to fall. Officers responded affirmatively, stating that they were endeavouring to bring this number down. However, they stressed that some children needed to be protected under section 20 of the Children Act 1989, particularly disabled children. They added that these cases were reviewed regularly to avoid drift.

Panel members sought assurances that looked after children in custody were well safeguarded. They were advised that these children were regularly visited by their social worker and young offending officers. Some concerns had been raised regarding the welfare of the small number of children in Feltham prison. Members were advised that most of the children currently in custody were in Medway prison.

 

Officers were questioned regarding National Indicator 62, which measures the percentage of Looked After Children who have had three or more placements within the last year. As of the end of January 2017, there were 47 local children and 17 UASC who had had more than three placements in the 12 months. Officers explained that the moves had usually been due to the complexity of needs, including special educational needs and a few teenagers with very challenging behaviour. They added that the national picture for children with acute behaviour problems was challenging as a result of problems with the residential market.

 

Officers were questioned regarding the placing of 120 children currently in care on Child in Need plans (making them eligible for support by a social worker) rather than Child Protection Plans (also requiring a formal plan and a conference). Officers explained that the figures needed further analysis to bring out the causes of the orders and the order of events in their lives. Again, officers stressed that any such interventions were subject to clear thresholds set out in the London child protection procedure.

 

Officers were thanked for their answers to the Panel's questions.

A14/17 IRO VOICES ANNUAL REPORT

This item was presented by Oretha Wofford, Principal Social Worker.

 

The Panel were advised that the report had been written six months before and that progress had been made in a number of areas since then. However, there remained some lingering themes:
- Issues with preparation for leaving care and pathway planning for young people aged 16 and over
- Issues with the quality of visits
- Delays in getting cases resolved
- The quality of direct work with young people

 

The Chair invited Tim Sugden, who had been an IRO for 11 years, to speak on his experience of this work. He explained that he had written the preface to the "IRO voices Annual Report" included in this meeting's agenda and set out the key issues he had faced in doing this work, such as receiving appropriate answers to his many questions and queries. He conceded, however, that there had been some improvement and that quality assurance had become more consistent in recent months.

 

Tim Sugden explained that there were three complaint stages before an issue was escalated to the Executive Director, and that 3 complaints had reached that final stage in the last 4 months, including a complaint regarding immunisation.

 

Officers concurred that the council needed to embrace the views of IROs and use them to improve outcomes for children and that timeliness of responses needed to be improved.

 

Members discussed the graph on page 41 of the agenda, setting out responses to the question "Has semi-independent / permanent accommodation, the leaving care grant and post-eighteen support been explained?". They noted that only 45% had answered "yes" to this question. Officers explained that while these questions were always discussed, they were not always explained clearly enough, leading to a negative answer from looked after children. This was a particular problem for young people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds who had not fully understood the information given to them.

Members questioned officers regarding the reasons for delays in addressing "CERPs" (complaints made using the Croydon Escalation and Resolution Process"). Officers explained that these delays were due to a range of reasons including the notification process. Asked whether they felt the process was satisfactory, officers replied that it had improved dramatically after initial teething troubles and that an increasing number of IROs were using the complaints process effectively and confidently. The Panel also heard that there was an agreed escalation policy with guidance on thresholds for triggering a "CERP", which officers would be happy to circulate. To officers' comments on thresholds, members stressed that thresholds might need to vary according to the type and acuteness of need of different individuals.

 

Members and officers agreed that endeavouring to resolve issues through informal discussion before having to escalate them as "CERPs" was good practice, but it was emphasised that a record of informal discussions also needed to be kept. Officers stated that a system had been developed for recording such informal discussions, which currently held about 230 such reports. It was argued that the monitoring of such discussions should be improved and that these records should be analysed to identify trends and tackle them in a timely fashion.

 

The Panel were informed that the Director of Children, Family Intervention and Children's Social Care received a quarterly report regarding ongoing issues, which was then used to review and fine-tune management plans.

 

Asked about trends in CERPs, officers responded that health assessments had been an issue some years ago but that backlogs had now been resolved.

 

Members asked how often there had been an escalation of an informal discussion to a formal complaint. Officers explained that serious issues such as the failure to take forward an adoption plan might merit swift escalation while an issue with pocket money would not merit a full scale complaint under the Croydon Escalation and Resolution Process.

 

Officers stressed that while CERPs were a useful tool for addressing the needs of Looked After Children, the role of IROs was not to be a "compliance police force", but rather to befriend, encourage and inspire young people in care.

 

The Panel heard that one IRO was attached to the Leaving Care team to help young people manage the challenging transition from care to independence more easily.


The Chair invited young people present to comment on their relationship with their IROs.

 

K.

K. stated that he had a friendly IRO, who he felt really listened to his views and needs, and did not take sides. He felt that all IROs should be like his one.


R.

R. stated that he had a very understanding IRO. He explained that he learnt quite slowly and that he received good support from his IRO and his social worker to manage his learning difficulties.

 

R.'s foster carer stated that R's IRO had been on long term sickness leave and that no one had filled that gap in her absence, which had led to difficulties for R. including the cancellation of his Personal Education Plan (PEP). The IRO had then come back too soon in the opinion of the foster carer, which had had an impact on R. She stressed that a back-up plan was needed in such circumstances to provide continuity of support for Looked After Children.

 

B.

B. was in attendance but his foster carer spoke for him and said that everything was OK.


Young people in attendance were asked whether they felt that they had received adequate preparation for leaving care. R. stated that he had, and was appreciative of the information and advice he had received. He added that he felt he would benefit from support e.g. financial advice at the point when he moved to semi-independent accommodation. K., on the other hand, felt that the Leaving Care team did not take this work seriously enough. He felt that he was not ready to move out from his foster family and urged officers to make that transfer easier. He explained that he had had the same social worker for 7 years and had developed a very good relationship with her and stressed that for many young looked after people, turning 18 represented a real challenge.

 

Officers stated that with the "Staying put" initiative, young people were encouraged to go semi-independent ONLY if they felt ready to do so.

 

Officers, Looked After Children and their foster carers were thanked for their responses to members' questions.

 

A15/17 CORPORATE PARENTING PANEL WORK PROGRAMME REPORT

The topic of the 19 July 2017 meeting was confirmed as the health of Looked After Children.

 

It was also suggested that the work of foster carers be included in the following year's work programme.
 

A16/17 DATES OF FUTURE MEETINGS

- Wednesday 19 July 2017 at 5pm
- Wednesday 11 October 2017 at 5pm
- Wednesday 10 January 2018 at 5pm
- Wednesday 7 March 2018 at 5pm
 

MINUTES - PART B
  None
The meeting ended at 7.10 p.m.