Agenda and draft minutes

Corporate Parenting Committee - Tuesday, 1st June, 2021 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Civic Offices, New Road, Grays, Essex, RM17 6SL.

Contact: Kenna Victoria Healey, Senior Democratic Services Officer  Email: Direct.Democracy@thurrock.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 320 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the Corporate Parenting Committeemeeting held on 2 March 2021.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The minutes of the Corporate Parenting meeting on 2 March 2021 were approved as a correct record.

2.

Items of Urgent Business

To receive additional items that the Chair is of the opinion should be considered as a matter of urgency, in accordance with Section 100B (4) (b) of the Local Government Act 1972.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no items of urgent business.

3.

Declaration of Interests

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

4.

Children's Social Care Performance pdf icon PDF 756 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report was presented by Mandy Moore.

 

Referring to paragraph 3.4, Councillor Muldowney sought more details on the number of children leaving and entering care and the impact of Covid-19 on this. Janet Simon explained that in 2019-2020, there had been a large number of Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC) who were accommodated and this number had decreased this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. She mentioned that a few large sibling groups had come into care in February 2020 which had impacted the figures and the number of children in care tended to remain static as some stayed in care longer due to the Covid-19 pandemic or because it was the right place for children at that time. The service held a weekly Placement Panel to discuss children coming into care and worked with families to try to keep children within families if possible. A number of checks and balances were in place alongside care plans and trackers to ensure the right decision was made for children coming into care and continually updated. She went on to say that if a child needed to come into care through a referral, discussions would take place with the parents to assess whether a voluntary arrangement or emergency protection order was needed for the child to come into care. The emergency protection order would enable the service 72 hours for the case to go through the court.

 

Referring to paragraph 7.1, Councillor Raper questioned whether there were measures in place to address the drop in care leavers in Education, Employment or Training (EET). Naintara Khosla explained that the drop was a direct impact of Covid-19 in the 18 – 21 years old cohort where most of Thurrock’s young people had been trying to find work. The service had a programme in place alongside Inspire Youth Hub to support young people in CVs and interviews. A bespoke panel also looked at the interests of a young person to match them with a suitable job depending on the availability of work. The service was working towards a September offer to try to encourage young people to get back into college or work and was currently making full use of the Kickstart programme.

 

Referring to paragraph 8.1, Councillor Pothecary noted that the net gain of a foster household over a two year period was one and sought more details. She felt that it would be useful to see some contextual data behind the figures and compared against neighbouring local authorities. Naintara Khosla answered that a small gain of a foster household and not a decrease was considered successful. It was challenging to recruit foster carers and the service was doing well in the current climate to break even. She said that the service had a good marketing plan to achieve 20 additional foster households. Janet Simon added that the service also took into consideration of the number of children in care and depended on how many a foster household could take. She went on to say  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Update on the Youth Offending Service, Youth Justice Plan and the role of the Service for Children Looked After pdf icon PDF 629 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report was presented by Clare Moore.

 

Referring to the fifth bullet point in paragraph 3.9, Councillor Polley sought clarification on the type of changes and if this included county lines. Clare Moore answered that there had been an increase in county lines activity and violent crimes in which some related to organised crime.

 

Councillor Muldowney commented that she was pleased to see the improvements made to the out of court disposal. She commented that the Youth Justice Plan was a vision and felt that it was difficult to grasp what outcomes would be achieve for children. She questioned what resources were reduced as indicated on page 38 and how the service had been creative in delivering their services to young people during lockdown. Clare Moore answered that the reduction in resources related to the grant from the Youth Justice Board for young people on remand. The grant reduced every year and the service’s costs increased which the Council absorbed under the placements budget. She went on to say that the service had been creative in seeing young people through online meets and meeting outside in open spaces whilst adhering to guidelines. Councillor Muldowney queried how these costs could be reduced. Sheila Murphy explained that the key was prevention in encouraging young people to not reoffend. She said that recent crimes had been serious knife crimes and the service could not predict how many young people would be on remand. She explained that costs would not be paid if a young person was not convicted and that currently the service had more young people on remand awaiting trail due to Covid-19 restrictions.

 

Referring to paragraph 3.3, Councillor Pothecary questioned how the Council compared against other local authorities. She also asked for more information on the out of court disposal panel. Clare Moore answered that she would look into these details and email these on. She would also share more details of the Youth Justice System plan as shown in appendix one with the Committee.

 

Councillor Polley sought clarification on young people who moved into and out of Thurrock. She also asked if the children that was currently in Thurrock’s care were residents of Thurrock or outside of Thurrock. Clare Moore answered that the children in care in Thurrock were currently Thurrock’s residents. She went on to say that there had been families that had moved to Thurrock from London to move away from the young person’s life of crime but some would return to that area to commit crimes. She explained that most crimes were committed outside of the borough but were residents of Thurrock.

 

The Chair questioned whether there were issues of knife crime in Thurrock. Clare Moore explained that the levels of knife crime in Thurrock were not on the same level as London. However, there was an increase in young people involved in knife crime.

 

RESOLVED:

 

1.1       That Members noted the contents of this report and consider the continued improvements made.

 

1.2       For Members to identify any  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Report for Members on Missing Children, Child Exploitation, Return Home Interviews and Contextual Safeguarding focussed on Children Looked After pdf icon PDF 580 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report was presented by Clare Moore.

 

Referring to paragraph 3.1, Councillor Pothecary asked for an update on the missing UASC and how many children were currently missing. Sheila Murphy explained that the UASC were still missing and that some UASC that arrived tended to have plans on where to go and would usually go missing within a few days of arrival. She stated that this was a national issue. She explained that missing UASC was reported to the police and meetings were held every 6 weeks to discuss the cases. If a UASC was found, the service encouraged them to come into care. Sharon Smith added that it was difficult to prevent UASC from leaving a foster home when they already had plans to leave. There were also concerns over their age particularly where they appeared much older than their given age.

 

Councillor Pothecary was concerned that UASC that went missing were vulnerable and open to exploitation. She commented that the 6 weekly meetings seemed far apart. Sheila Murphy explained that if information was received in between meetings, action would be taken immediately. She said that the meetings were not a national requirement and was a part of the Council’s practice which Ofsted (at the recent inspection) had assessed as good practice. She explained that as the UASC were not known to the Council, it was hard to track movement as the usual process was to track missing children through family and friend networks. The majority of UASC that arrived were usually placed into the service’s care or to other local authorities and very few went missing.

 

Councillor Carter asked for the figures on the return of missing UASC. Janet Simon answered that 2019 had a larger number of UASC arrivals and that figure had decreased. She said that there were currently two missing UASC aged 16 and 17 and two other missing non-UASC were aged 16. She explained that the service tried to keep children in placements but there were various reasons why UASC would go missing.

 

Councillor Polley questioned whether there was a reduction of health visitors, teachers or other people that were usually the eyes and ears looking after children during lockdown restrictions. Janet Simon answered that children referrals came from a number of resources which continued during lockdown. She stated that schools had been fantastic and vigilant during these times and that social workers continued to see looked after children.

 

Regarding the return home interviews, Councillor Muldowney questioned how the child’s voice was fed into these. Clare Moore answered that the child’s voice was the main focus and the interview was an opportunity for the child to give their opinion. This was fed back into risk management meetings and development meetings to ensure that social workers were aware of the issue to prevent it from happening again. Janet Simon added that the service aimed to have a balance between ensuring children were safe whilst giving them their freedom.

 

The Chair asked what measures were in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Corporate Parenting: Fostering Recruitment Strategy pdf icon PDF 859 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report was presented by Naintara Khosla.

 

Councillor Pothecary thanked foster carers for their hard work and care. She commented that the branding was good. She asked whether the service had followed up on people’s enquiries into foster care to identify and if there was evidence that the council tax exemption had attracted more foster carers. Naintara Khosla answered that the service followed up on people’s enquiries to identify why they had not progressed onto being a foster carer. She said that most people were unable to meet the requirements of being a foster carer or that it did not fit in with their lifestyle and some people did not want to enter into a detailed assessment where they would need to disclose their private lives. Following a campaign in March, there had been an increase in April which tapered off in May and the campaign had to be relentless and ongoing. The council tax exemption had helped existing foster carers.

 

Councillor Pothecary questioned whether the service could do more to support potential foster carers such as supporting someone to upsize their home to acquire a spare bedroom for a foster child. Sharon Smith said that some people had the impression that fostering would enable them to acquire a bigger home and that this was not the right idea to have. She explained that not everyone was keen on the whole process of becoming a foster carer or the lifestyle of it as the whole family had to be involved as well.

 

Councillor Muldowney asked whether the branding would show ethnic diversity on posters and if the rebranding had been done in house. Naintara Khosla said that the rebranding had been done in house and that the poster branding was still being considered.

 

Councillor Carter questioned whether there was a key demographic group that the service was targeting to become foster carers. Naintara Khosla explained that the marketing was generic to ensure as much interest as possible. Through social media channels, different age groups were targeted in line with the age group users on each platform.

 

The Committee agreed to suspend standing orders for an extra 30 minutes at 9.24pm.

 

Councillor Polley sought the opinion of the Children in Care Council (CICC) on the rebranding. She also asked the Foster Carer Association Team if Thurrock was a good place to foster. The CICC representative said that the colour was appealing but that foster care was not all colourful as it was a big change to the child and the foster carers’ lives. It was also not an easy process. Annie Guidotti added that Thurrock’s CICC would be participating in other CICC’s in the eastern region.

 

In answer to Councillor Polley’s question, Sharon Smith said that Thurrock was a good place to be a foster carer as there was support and training in place. She said that she had been involved in the rebranding and that the colours and pictures had been chosen by a group of foster carers who felt  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.

8.

Corporate Parenting Committee Work Programme 2021/2022 pdf icon PDF 322 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Independent Reviewing Officer report was moved to September’s meeting.