The Children in Care Performance Scorecard of September 2019 is attached.
The Head of Social Work with Children Looked After and Care Leavers gave an update of the September month performance, which highlighted the service performance was doing well in some areas and had struggled in other areas.
Officers shared that the local authority had 548 children in care of which 290 children were looked after from unaccompanied minors from aged 16 who came from Lunar House and were cared for by another local authority.
There were more performances noted in amber than red which was good progress for the service improvement journey.
One of the red performance issues, related to having an updated care plan and pathway plan for looked after children. It was noted that a new system had been introduced for social workers to use. In addition, a new pathway plan had been more child friendly and focused to ease the problems raised. The updated pathway plan was due to be launched this November 2019.
Officers highlighted a change in targets and expectations in foster care visits, and had introduced for social workers to conduct an every 4-week visit to foster carers, with expectations to rise to 95% from 85% last year.
The Panel discussed what had been heard and questions were asked. EMPIRE noted that the percentage was low for the 17-15 aged group of children and they asked how Children Services helped children in education, not in employment and training. Officers said that collaborations with the children’s services and Virtual School were in process of setting up a NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) Panel, to set up a multi-disciplinary panel to see what we can do in the wider council and with develops relationships to address other issues to look at real opportunity for young people. The idea had come from the model used in the Camden borough, which was looked at as part of the improvement model for Croydon. It was noted that figures needed to improve and this was the first step to address the issues.
The Chief Executive Officer noted that some of the failures before reemployment and training were left in one department. In light of these issues, it was noted that the Council would be doing more to encourage young people in work or training by way of apprentices and other opportunities. There was an agency called Croydon Works, which had brought other opportunities and networking. Croydon Hospital and the Council looked to create better opportunities for the young person.
Other Members commented on the notable progress made within the service from the scorecard presented, though concerns were raised around continued employment for young people aged 20 who had employment for twelve months.
Officers shared that training was offered to staff for additional support in their workforce and further took on board comments highlighted by the Panel to enhance the service.
The Panel discussed the issue of the consistency in visits and how it was monitored. Co-optee Members highlighted the pressures social workers had in trying to fit in 6-weekly visits and reducing caseloads. Officers acknowledged that social workers had been under pressure to complete home visits in 6 weeks and to reduce the target would be difficult as the 6-weekly target was not successful, and suggested that the visits should be monitored before moving on to another target. Other issues in visits were raised concerning clear promises that were not often followed through and visits that were not often planned. Officers responded that the service was introducing a better way for social workers to plan visits, by encouraging standard practices to book three to six months in advance with a letter template so the young person and the foster carer know of their scheduled appointment.
Officers noted the report stated a 4-weekly fostering visit, which was incorrect and should be noted for a 6-weekly fostering visit. The service had introduced good practise of a 4-weekly visit and working towards 6-weekly.
Further, officers noted that management was working to support staff in their demanding work to help build an improved performance within the service.
The Panel discussed the pathway plans and its statutory entitlements, and Members relayed the ongoing issues of its availability within the timescales provided to the young person. Members were glad to see the changes included a better template in completing the plans, and were concerned of its unclear timekeeping. Members were further concerned with the quality of visits and giving staff support. Officers acknowledged that timekeeping with pathway plans was an issue and indicated that their aspiration to change the way pathway plans were coordinated would reduce the issues highlighted, and every young person and foster carer would have a copy of the care plan within the required time. Further, officers were insuring that all social workers had manageable caseloads to deliver quality service.
ACTION: Clarity around timescales for pathway plans to return back to Panel.
The Panel discussed the raised concerns of young people who were known to be drifting off, and officers assured that there were support for young people to access, such as Legacy. The leaflets had been distributed to professionals and schools which provided information on Legacy so young people are aware of it. The Chair acknowledged there were issues arising in young people on a case by case basis, and more emphasis was given that they are supported across the board. Officers noted that the service were looking at different support based on the individual needs, to reduce people feeling panicked and overwhelmed.
At 5:58pm the Panel adjourned for a short break
At 6:04pm the Panel resumed the meeting