Agenda and minutes

Corporate Parenting Committee
Thursday 27 July 2017 5.00 pm

Venue: Board Room 2 - Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley HA9 0FJ. View directions

Contact: Bryony Gibbs, Governance Officer  020 8937 1355, Email: bryony.gibbs@brent.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Election of Chair

Minutes:

Tom Welsh (Governance Officer, Brent Council) opened the meeting to explain that Councillor M Patel had given her apologies and that the Committee had no appointed Vice-Chair. He outlined that, in this instance, Members would need to formally elect a Chair for the duration of the meeting.

 

It was RESOLVED by Members that Councillor Thomas would Chair the meeting.

 

Before the substantive business of the meeting began, Councillor Thomas mentioned that Janet Lewis (the Council’s Head of Virtual School) was due to retire in the near future. The Committee thanked her for all of her hard work at the London Borough of Brent.

2.

Declarations of Interests

Members are invited to declare at this stage of the meeting, any relevant disclosable pecuniary, personal or prejudicial interests in the items on this agenda.

Minutes:

There were no interests declared by Members.

3.

Minutes of the Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 93 KB

To approve the minutes of the previous meeting as a correct record.

Minutes:

It was RESOLVED that the minutes of the previous meeting held on 19 April 2017 be approved as an accurate record.

4.

Matters Arising

To consider any matters arising from the minutes of the previous meeting.

Minutes:

Janet Lewis provided further information on the strategies in place to address attainment, as requested by the Committee on page 3 of the previous minutes. She firstly explained how Lexia was a digital program designed to improve both the literacy skills and reading age of students in academic years 5, 6 and 7. Members heard that, as it was web-enabled, it could be accessed at school or at home and that teachers and carers could be given log-in details in order to assess how students were progressing. She noted that around 50 schools both inside and outside the borough had used the program and that very positive feedback and favourable outcomes had been reported to the Council.

 

She went on to provide an update on the ‘Promoting the Achievement of Looked After Children’ (PALAC) pilot project. She outlined that this was a knowledge exchange programme which aimed to improve the educational attainment of Looked After Children (LAC) in the year 11 academic year. Members heard that the programme was based on teachers and members of staff giving specific one-to-one feedback and mentoring to LAC in this age range. She noted that 5 schools in the borough had been part of the programme and that it had also drawn encouraging feedback from both teachers and students. She added that the Institute of Education were due to complete follow-up work to assess to results of the pilot, and that the effectiveness would be analysed after students received their results in August.

 

Janet Lewis also spoke on the work to assess absenteeism data which related to LAC, as mentioned on page 4 of the previous minutes. She outlined that a monthly report had been agreed to be drawn up and sent to all Social Care Managers which flagged up any children with attendance levels below 90%, in order to identify and address attendance issues quickly.

 

Gail Tolley (the Council’s Strategic Director, Children and Young People) added an update on the Children and Social Work Bill, as mentioned on page 6 of the previous minutes. She informed Members that the Bill had recently received Royal Assent and had become law shortly before Parliament was dissolved for the June 2017 General Election.

 

Members welcomed the updates from Officers and it was RESOLVED that the Council’s Virtual School team would continue to provide regular updates to the Corporate Parenting Committee on the strategies in place to improve LAC attainment levels (such as Lexia and PALAC).

5.

Deputations

To hear any deputations received from members of the public in accordance with Standing Order 69.

Minutes:

There were no deputations.

6.

Children in Care - Questions and Answers

This is an opportunity for members of the Children In Care Council (CIA) to feedback on recent activity.

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed LM, CM and JB from Care in Action (CIA) to the meeting and invited them to provide their respective updates.

 

LM began and said that they had enjoyed attending two Corporate Parenting meetings with officers recently. Members heard that the first meeting had focused on youth offending and explored the possible background reasons for why young people in care commit crimes. LM said that they had found this very interesting, and that they had observed that petty crime was often the most common offence.

 

The second meeting LM attended focused on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) for LAC. LM explained how the questionnaire worked and outlined that they had taken an active role in the meeting by questioning some of the procedures of the SDQ. Members heard that this included: why in practice only one person tended to complete the questionnaire as this would not capture enough information about the child; whether social workers were qualified to score the results of the questionnaire; why an online version of the questionnaire had not been used; and why Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) support ended at age 18. LM was pleased that officers at the meeting had said that they would address these concerns. LM added that they felt happy to be have been involved in the meetings and that their suggestions had been listened to as they wanted to help to make a difference to other young people in care.   

 

CM spoke about how they had been happy to be asked to help to develop a ‘Readiness for Practice’ module for trainee social workers at Royal Holloway, University of London. They said that they had enjoyed giving suggestions to the tutor and that they felt glad that they had been able to contribute to potentially improving the lives of other LAC in the future. The Committee heard that CM had also been part of the start of the preparations for the ‘Voice in a Million’ concert at the SSE Wembley Arena which gave a voice to children in care all across the UK. CM was excited that monthly rehearsals for the choir performance at next year’s event would begin in October 2017. CM also explained that they had been to a recent CIA meeting for LAC and Care Leavers attended by the Philosophy Foundation. CM said that they had been intrigued by discussions with fellow young people about their different beliefs on issues such as religion, god and hope.

 

JB spoke about a recent tour of St John’s College at the University of Cambridge, which had been organised by the Virtual School. They told the Committee about how they had learnt about the University’s history and JB said they had benefited from the visit because they no longer viewed University solely as hard work, and that it could also be an opportunity of fun for students. They also spoke about the recent ‘Summer Fun Day’ for CIA young people and their Foster Carers at the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Presentation from the Lead Nurse for Looked After Children, London North West Healthcare NHS Trust

The Lead Nurse for Looked After Children, London North West Healthcare NHS Trust, will present a case study to the Committee highlighting some of the health needs of Looked After Children and illustrating how Health services and the Local Authority interface to achieve positive outcomes for Looked After Children.

Minutes:

As Nickola Rickard (Lead Nurse for Looked After Children, London North West Healthcare NHS Trust) had given her apologies for the meeting it was RESOLVED the item would be deferred to the next meeting of the Committee and that the presentation would be combined with the LAC Annual Health Report.

8.

Brent Fostering Service Quarterly Monitoring Report 1st April - 30th June 2017 pdf icon PDF 154 KB

The purpose of this report is to provide information to the Council’s Corporate Parenting Committee about the general management of the in-house fostering service and how it is achieving good outcomes for children. This is in accordance with standard 25.7 of the Fostering National Minimum Standards (2011). The report covers the first quarter of this reporting year.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Kelli Eboji (the Council’s Principal Officer, LAC and Permanency) introduced the report which provided Members with information on the recent outcomes and overall management of the Council’s Fostering Service for the first quarter of the new reporting year (Q1).

 

She ran through the key details within the report, and began by highlighting that in Q1 the numbers of unaccompanied asylum seeking children who had approached Brent for support had stabilised and levelled-off. She explained that the Fostering Service had carried out 7 recruitment focused activities in order to raise awareness of fostering and to encourage more people to come forward as potential foster carers. Members heard that this recruitment drive had mainly taken place through ‘Fostering Fortnight’ and that the service had organised information stalls in Wembley and on Kilburn High Road. She noted that this had drawn 59 enquiries from members of the public and had resulted in 12 formal assessments as of 30 June 2017. She concluded by mentioning that the Fostering Panel had recommended five new fostering households for approval and that it was encouraging that this meant that the target had been met for the quarter.

 

Questions arose on the service values for 2017-2018 (as set out in section 3 of the report) and it was queried why the values were different on this occasion from the previous quarterly monitoring report. Nigel Chapman stated that a more coherent cross-directorate plan had been developed for the new reporting year which drew together outcome targets across all of the different service areas which affected LAC. Gail Tolley added that a senior management restructure within the Children and Young People’s Department at the Council had reframed the department for future success and this had been reflected through an updated service plan. A Member of the Committee commented that the service values for 2017-2018 were an improvement, but that it would be important that progress on the values was monitored closely.

 

On training and support for foster carers, a Member questioned why there had been a drop in training spaces offered since the last reporting period. Nigel Chapman posited that this was likely to be because the courses during Q1 were more specialist in content. He explained that more general training courses, such as First Aid Training, tended to draw a higher degree of interest from a wider range of foster carers. He confirmed that the drop in numbers had not been caused from training being cut back and highlighted that the number of sessions offered between quarters had remained the same.

 

A specific question was asked on how long the Fostering Development Co-Ordinator role had been vacant. Kelli Eboji outlined that the role had been vacant since the end of June 2017 but that the job description had been cleared and that the advertising process for recruitment to the post would begin imminently.

 

A Member of the Committee questioned why 5 annual reviews for foster carers had been cancelled (as set out under paragraph 9.1 of the report). Kelli  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Annual Corporate Parenting Report 2016-2017 pdf icon PDF 275 KB

The Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations (2011) require Local Authorities to provide an annual report about the outcomes for Looked After Children (LAC) which should be presented to the Corporate Parenting Committee. This report fulfils that requirement, providing a profile of Brent’s looked after children and care leavers during 2016-2017 and reporting to the committee on work completed, highlighting strengths and areas for development in supporting looked after children and care leavers in Brent. 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Nigel Chapman introduced the report which provided Members with an annual report on the outcomes for LAC, in accordance with the Council’s statutory duties. He ran through each section of the report in-turn, highlighted some of the key aspects and offered an explanation to the Members on the statistical trends.

 

Members heard about: the specific role of the Corporate Parenting Committee; the Committee’s work in providing scrutiny and challenge over the past reporting year; the work of CIA; the statistical profile of LAC in Brent, and how the overall number had fallen even further below the national average; placements having been slightly above the national average for the proportion of children placed more than 20 miles away from the borough; the number of care proceedings having risen within the last reporting year; Brent’s record on different health outcomes for LAC; the specific work being undertaken to address absenteeism; the role of the Multi-Agency Sexual Exploitation (MASE) panel; education data from the Brent Virtual School; what the Council currently provided in terms of support to Care Leavers; and what areas the LAC and Permanency Service had prioritised for 2017-2018.

 

Members received the report positively and Councillor Warren specifically praised the use of quotes and case studies within the report content as he felt that this had made it more enjoyable to read. Questions arose on what the formal mechanisms were for reporting the detail within the annual report to both the Government and the Committee. Nigel Chapman specified that the Council had to submit a statistical data return for the borough to the Government by 30 June each year and that this was how national data was typically captured. Gail Tolley also explained that the basic dataset for the borough across LAC and permanency was reported to the Committee through the quarterly monitoring reports. She confirmed that the Council had met its statutory obligations for 2015-2016 as the Council had published all of the required information through these monitoring reports, but that it had not been drawn together into one comprehensive report format. She outlined that, to avoid any risk of confusion in future, the Council would stick to the format used for 2016-2017 which involved the continued presentation of quarterly monitoring reports followed by an overarching annual report which pulled the key information together.

 

Members raised questions on the placements of LAC outside of Brent and why Brent was slightly above the national average on this. Nigel Chapman explained that some LAC were moved out of the borough for their own welfare, such as the risk of drug or gang related exploitation. He said other moves sometimes took place in order for the child to be able to access a certain specialist service provision that Brent did not have the resources for. In response to an additional question from a Member about future reports containing direct data comparisons with neighbouring boroughs, he stated that there was a difference between geographically neighbouring boroughs and statistical neighbour boroughs. It was made clear  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) Annual Report 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017 pdf icon PDF 221 KB

 

This report outlines the contribution of Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) on quality assuring and improving services for children in care. It also contains quantitative and qualitative evidence relating to the IRO provision in Brent as required by statutory guidance. This report includes quotations gathered from a ‘Bright Spots’ survey carried out with looked after children and consultation with the Care in Action, Brent’s Children in Care Council.

Minutes:

Sonya Kalyniak (the Council’s Head of Safeguarding and Quality Assurance) introduced the report which provided the Committee with information on the contribution of Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) over the last reporting year (April 2016 to March 2017). She said that the report had taken on Councillor Warren’s comments from last year’s report and had included more case studies and relevant quotations from service users alongside statistical information. She also thanked CIA for having promoted the ‘Bright Spots’ survey which had had a 33% response rate.

 

She outlined that the report detailed both the positive aspects of the previous year, and the elements which could be improved. Focusing initially on the positives, Members heard that it was very encouraging that the vast majority of children in care felt that they were included in decision making about their lives. It was also felt that the development of functions of the Review, Engagement and Participation (REP) Team had helped the Council gain a more holistic understanding of the view of children and young people. Ms Kalyniak noted that 984 reviews had been chaired by IROs in 2016/17 and that the close collaboration between IROs, Aidhour and social workers had allowed the issues identified during these reviews to be resolved more quickly. She also referenced some of areas for improvement such as: addressing the continued high number of social worker changes and the need for timeliness of LAC reviews to be monitored more closely. She also said that the ‘Bright Spots’ survey had been a success and that it would be a priority to take forward the messages identified from young people within the survey to drive the service forward.

 

Questions arose on the specific role of IROs and at what stage they ultimately become involved in the care process. Gail Tolley explained that the final decision to take a child into care came via the court system. She said that IROs are assigned to young people once they come into care and provide oversight and monitoring of the child’s care planning. Sonya Kalyniak added that IROs were qualified social workers with significant experience which complimented the nature of their role. One of the CIA representatives commented that they had a very good relationship with their IRO and believed that their role was effective.

 

It was RESOLVED that:

 

(i)         The content of the report be noted; and

 

(ii)        A detailed summary which explained the role of IROs be included at the start of the 2017-2018 IRO annual report.

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11.

Any Other Urgent Business

Notice of items to be raised under this heading must be given in writing to the Head of Executive and Member Services or his representative before the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 64.

Minutes:

There was no other urgent business to transact.