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Contact: Ilona Kytomaa
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Apologies for absence
To receive any apologies for absence from any members of the Committee.
Apologies for absence were given for Councillors Maria Gatland Patricia Hay-Justice, Dave Harvey, Elaine Jones and Leo Morrell.
To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 20 June 2017 as an accurate record.
The minutes were agreed.
RESOLVED THAT: the minutes of the meeting held on 19 September 2017
be signed as a correct record.
Updates were provided on the following:
- Further to the Scrutiny recommendation made at the 19 September meeting to organise learning and development visits on children’s services, an undertaking has been made to organise monthly sessions to enable members to follow the journey of children at risk to a better life
- It has now been agreed to carry out satisfaction surveys with children services staff, the results of which will be shared with scrutiny members.
Disclosures of interest
In accordance with the Council’s Code of Conduct and the statutory provisions of the Localism Act, Members and co-opted Members of the Council are reminded that it is a requirement to register disclosable pecuniary interests (DPIs) and gifts and hospitality to the value of which exceeds £50 or multiple gifts and/or instances of hospitality with a cumulative value of £50 or more when received from a single donor within a rolling twelve month period. In addition, Members and co-opted Members are reminded that unless their disclosable pecuniary interest is registered on the register of interests or is the subject of a pending notification to the Monitoring Officer, they are required to disclose those disclosable pecuniary interests at the meeting. This should be done by completing the Disclosure of Interest form and handing it to the Democratic Services representative at the start of the meeting. The Chair will then invite Members to make their disclosure orally at the commencement of Agenda item 3. Completed disclosure forms will be provided to the Monitoring Officer for inclusion on the Register of Members’ Interests.
There were none.
Urgent Business (if any)
To receive notice of any business not on the agenda which in the opinion of the Chair, by reason of special circumstances, be considered as a matter of urgency.
There were none.
The following officers were in attendance for this item:
- Barbara Peacock Executive Director (People)
- Philip Segurola, Interim Director, Early Help and Children’s Social Care
A presentation was given on the recent Deep Dive on Missing Children, which
covered the following areas:
- Strengths and areas requiring improvement
- An acknowledgement that front-line practice on missing children is underdeveloped
- Information on the work of the Improvement Board and planned Deep Dives
- Feedback on a recent programme of audits on current practice in addressing the
needs and risks faced by missing children
- Planned improvements to services
Asked how many children were missing at present, officers replied that there were 24 looked after children currently missing, the majority of these unaccompanied asylum seeking children. They added that some had been missing for some time and that the council was working with its partners to find them. Officers stated that there were also 9 missing children who were not in care.
Officers explained that the police had two categories of absence:
- “Unauthorised absence”: this covered children going missing for several hours
- “Missing children”: this category covered children going missing for far longer periods
Members noted that the council accommodated looked after children from other boroughs. Officers were asked for the reasons why this was happening. They replied that this was due to issues of suitable accommodation in some boroughs or because the child might be housed with a relative who lived some distance away from his parents’ home. They added that Croydon was popular with other boroughs because it provided good support to unaccompanied asylum seeking children.
Members were informed that the number of children in care was rising nationwide and that there had been a drop in adoptions. Many care leavers were also staying with their foster carers for longer under the “Staying Put” scheme. Overall, the borough does not have sufficient numbers of foster carers. Other boroughs housing looked after children in Croydon tend to use private fostering agencies, which charge about twice the cost of a person fostering Croydon’s looked after children.
Officers highlighted the fact that gang culture was a key factor in children going missing.
Members asked whether social workers had the necessary skills to deal with the various challenges presented by missing children. Officers acknowledged that some social workers needed to improve their understanding of procedures relating to missing children and that there were issues with record keeping on Return Home Interviews (RHIs). It was explained that notes on such interviews were sometimes held as e-mails or in other formats, but not on the CRS system where they should be stored, and that some social workers thought that the NSPCC was in charge of carrying out all Return Home Interviews. Officers acknowledged that there was a clear need for greater consistency in record keeping.
Members asked whether new social workers were provided mentoring and support by their team. Officers acknowledged that induction and accountability both needed improving.
In answer ... view the full minutes text for item 37/17
Members discussed the work programme for the 28 November subcommittee meeting.
The Chair asked for the new Chair of the Safeguarding Children Board, Di Smith, to be invited to attend the meeting. The Executive Director (People) confirmed that this would be done. The Chair also requested that the covering report for the Annual Report of the Safeguarding Board should give a description of her role as the Chair of the Board.
The Sub-Committee agreed to:
- Add an agenda item on statistics relating to missing children
- Postpone the item on youth employability to a later meeting – possibly in the following municipal year
- Have a briefing meeting on “Public Law Outline” and “Early Permanence” prior to the 28 November meeting and to request a written briefing on these two topics ahead of the briefing meeting, in order to gain a better understanding of these two items
The Sub-Committee also agreed that the Cabinet Member Question and Answer session for Cllr Alisa Flemming should be moved from the 6 February meeting to the 13 March meeting.
(i) Add an agenda item on statistics relating to missing children
(ii) Postpone the item on youth employability to a later meeting – possibly in the following municipal year
(iii) Have a briefing meeting on “Public Law Outline” and “Early Permanence” prior to the 28 November meeting and to request a written briefing on these two topics ahead of the briefing meeting, in order to gain a better understanding of these two items
(iv) move the Cabinet Member Question and Answer session for Cllr Alisa Flemming from the 6 February meeting to the 13 March meeting.