Agenda and minutes

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.

Apologies for absence and clarification of alternate members

Minutes:

None

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 declarations of interest.

3.

Deputations (if any)

To hear any deputations received from members of the public in accordance with Standing Order 67.

Minutes:

None.

4.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 88 KB

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

Minutes:

RESOLVED: that the minutes of the previous meeting held on 25 July 2018 be agreed as an accurate record of the meeting.

5.

Matters arising (if any)

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

Minutes:

There were no matters arising.

6.

Update from Care In Action Representatives

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

Minutes:

JBK advised that a Junior Care in Action meeting had been held in October and this had been greatly enjoyed by the children. The children had been able to take part in a range of activities including baking, arts and crafts and board games. JBK advised that he had played basketball and football with the Junior Care in Action members. LM (Vice Chair, CLIA) added that the annual Summer Fun Day held in August had also been successful event, with 33 children and young people attending, alongside foster carers, Brent CYP staff and the Corporate Parenting Committee Chair, Councillor Patel (Lead Member for Children’s Safeguarding, Early Help and Social Care).

 

HS (Chair of Care Leavers in Action (CLIA)) advised that she was part of the London Children in Care Council, and was currently working on a social action project with this group to raise awareness of three key issues: education, accommodation, and money management. Working with a team of colleagues, HS, advised that she was involved in running focus groups across the London boroughs and had recently held sessions in Bexley and Greenwich. HM added that a questionnaire was being devised regarding the Brent Pledge and Care Leavers’ Charter. It was intended that this would be sent out to all Brent children and young people in care and care leavers via social workers, key workers and foster carers. It was anticipated that the survey would be completed by the end of January 2019.

 

LM informed members that CIA had been considering how to reach more children in care and help them to feel part of the group, even if they were unable to attend meetings. A quarterly newsletter had been proposed, This idea would be explored further and an update would be provided to the committee in due course. JBK stated that he had recently met with young people from the Bromley Children in Care Council (CiCC) to explore how CiCC groups were run, including whether they met with their corporate parents. Bromley CiCC were leading on the project and hoped to survey at least two more CiCCs. The outcome of the surveys would be shared once the project was complete. JBK advised that he had also picked up a few ideas from Bromley CiCC, including how to get help in producing the aforementioned newsletter. JBK explained that he would shortly be joining the Care Leavers in Action group and was keen to support other young people in becoming more involved in the Care in Action group.

 

7.

Enrichment activities for older Looked After Children and Care Leavers - Summer 2018 pdf icon PDF 117 KB

This report informs the Corporate Parenting Committee about enrichment activities provided for Looked After Children and care leavers between June 2018 and September 2018. 

Minutes:

Onder Beter (Head of LAC and Permanency) introduced the report detailing enrichment activities provided for Looked After Children (LAC) and Care Leavers between June and September 2018. The activities aimed to tackle the challenges of  isolation and loneliness experienced by older children in care and care leavers. The enrichment activities supplemented a raft of existing support for care leavers and were intended to help build the young people’s confidence and self-esteem.

 

Onder Beter provided an overview of the enrichment programme which included one-off activities as well as regular structured activities. Members’ heard that feedback from the young people taking part in the activities had been very positive. Noting the success of the Care Leavers’ Hub which had attracted just under 30 young people to the most recent event, Onder Beter advised that it was hoped that a regular schedule could be put in place for the Hub to support those young people in maintaining their friendships. A WhatsApp group had been set up for the young people to help them keep in touch and it was understood that this was well used. A particularly exciting initiative was the weekly football between care leavers and staff that was now taking place, with a mini tournament planned for 31 October 2018. In concluding his introduction, Onder Beter drew members’ attention to a short presentation providing photographs and a video of some of the activities that had been undertaken. 

 

The committee welcomed the provision of the activities described for Brent’s Looked After Children and Care Leavers. They subsequently sought further detail from officers regarding the potential to hold the Care Leavers Hub more frequently, noting the value of having such a supportive structure in place. In response, Onder Beter acknowledged that there was a definite appetite amongst the young people for more Hub sessions but explained that the majority of the activities were facilitated by staff volunteering their time. Additional resource was currently being sought to maintain the activities. Gail Tolley (Strategic Director, Children and Young People) noted that the decision regarding resources lay with councillors when determining the council’s budget. Comparative data regarding the spend on Care in Action and Care Leavers evidenced that Brent was a lean service when considered against other boroughs.

 

Members subsequently sought feedback from the young people in attendance who had taken part in some of the activities. The committee heard that the Tall Ships voyage had been a great experience, with phones banned, dolphins spotted and sailing skills learnt ‘on the go’ during the week-long trip. The WhatsApp group had also been well received, with care leavers using it to keep in touch and to arrange to meet up.

 

8.

Brent Fostering Service Quarterly Monitoring Report: Quarter 2: 1 July to 30 September 2018 pdf icon PDF 164 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).

Minutes:

Onder Beter (Head of LAC and Permanency) introduced the Brent Fostering Service monitoring report for the period 1 July to 30 September 2018. Members’ heard that the number of Brent Looked After Children (LAC) within foster placements was 69 percent, an increase of five percent from the same reporting period of previous year. This was positive as it represented a reduction in the number of young people placed in semi-independent accommodation. Onder Beter further highlighted that the number of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) had fallen from 81 in September 2016 to 46 in September 2018. This reduction reflected both a more efficient way of working with UASC and a number of children turning 18 and leaving the care system. In concluding his introduction, Onder Beter drew the committee’s attention to the ‘new developments’ section of the report which included comment on the report ‘Foster Care in England’, published in February 2018 and the government’s response ‘Fostering Better Outcomes’  published in July 2018. The implications for Brent had been considered and the current service plan addressed the areas for which continued improvement was required to respond consistently to each of the ambitions set by the government.

 

The Chair thanked Onder Beter for his introduction to the report and welcomed Brent Foster Carers, Jose Silva, Julie Long and Samuel Abdullahi to the meeting. Members’ invited the Brent Foster Carers to share their experiences of fostering for Brent and sought particular feedback on the support and training provided by Brent. The committee heard that Brent was a good agency to work with and when issues arose, these were resolved with the help of supervising social workers and team managers. The foster carers expressed that the children they cared for were part of their families, a view shared by their birth children, and though there were challenges to be met, it was rewarding and enjoyable. The foster carers spoke on the importance of involving and consulting their birth children and emphasised that they weren’t just foster parents but rather they were all a foster family. They highlighted the significance of the relationships for their birth children and the challenges that this could pose. A suggestion was made that it would be helpful for birth children from fostering households to be able to meet other children and young people in the same position as themselves. In response to this proposal, Nigel Chapman confirmed that the Fostering Network did undertake work on this matter.

 

Discussing training, the foster carers stated that the training they received was good and always helpful. It was noted that it was not always easy to attend the training as they tended to be held during the day. Nigel Chapman advised that training could be accessed online and it was felt that there were sufficient training sessions held outside of the usual times. However, it was acknowledged that these arrangements would not be suitable for everyone. Onder Better further explained that this kind of feedback was essential as it meant that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Children's Commissioner's 2018 Stability Index for Children in Care pdf icon PDF 102 KB

The purpose of this report is to provide information to the Council’s Corporate Parenting Committee about the Children’s Commissioner’s 2018 Stability Index for Children in Care. This report also provides a summary of activities undertaken to achieve stability for looked after children in Brent.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Nigel Chapman (Operational Director, Integration and Improved Outcomes) introduced the report on the Children’s Commissioner’s 2018 Stability Index (SI). The SI was launched in 2017 by the Children’s Commissioner as an annual measure of the stability of the lives of children in care. The 2018 SI primarily used the data from 2015/16 and 2016/17 and provided an analysis based on several data measures such as change of placements, change of schools and change of social workers for looked after children in Care. The 2018 SI found out that whilst many children in care had stable arrangements, too many experience instability in different aspects of their lives. Some children were reported to experience repeat changes of placements, of school or with social workers. The SI has established that some children are more likely to experience instability such as those with additional behavioural and emotional needs, who have recently entered care, whose legal status indicates higher risk or who are in pupil referral units.

 

Nigel Chapman outlined the findings for Brent from the 2018 SI, noting that these related to three key stability indicators: changes of placement; changes of school; and changes of social worker. With regard to the first of these indicators, Brent had 14 per cent of children who had experienced two or more placements, compared to ten percent nationally. Nigel Chapman advised that this largely resulted from a higher proportion of older children in care in the Brent LAC population and explained that often older children in care exhibited more challenging behaviours. It was emphasised however, that the council was working to reduce this percentage. With regard to the number of changes of school places, Brent had eight percent of children who had experienced a mid-year school move in 2016/17 and four percent with at least one school move in both 2015/16 and 2016/17. The national average for this was ten percent and four percent respectively. This reflected the work of Brent’s virtual school, foster carers and social workers in supporting children to remain in their school places, and in particular, to avoid exclusion. In addressing, the number of social worker changes for Brent’s children, Nigel Chapman highlighted that this was not as good as the national average, emphasised that this was an issue for many London Boroughs due to the London labour market and the pay differential between agency and permanent social workers. Brent had made significant improvements with regard to the proportion of agency staff over the last few years and additional measures had recently been approved by the council to offer welcome payments and retention payments for certain hard to recruit to social worker positions. It was anticipated that this would lead to further improvements by the following year.

 

The Chair thanked Nigel Chapmen for his introduction to the report.

 

In the subsequent discussion, the committee sought details of the support offered to LAC to prevent them from being groomed by gangs. Questions were raised regarding the recruitment and retention of social workers. Members welcomed the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Brent Council Children and Young People Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) Annual Report 2017-2018 pdf icon PDF 229 KB

This report outlines the contribution of Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) on quality assuring and improving services for Looked After Children. It also contains quantitative and qualitative evidence relating to the IRO provision in Brent as required by statutory guidance. This report includes feedback from Looked After Children gained through consultation with Care in Action, Brent’s Children in Care Council. 

Minutes:

The Committee considered the Annual Report of the Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) for 2017/18, which detailed the contribution of the IRO Service in Brent. Goitom Mebrahtu (Review, Engagement and Participation Manager) drew Members’ attention to the summary of key messages for 2017-18 and highlighted the role of the IRO service in supporting improvements made.  Members heard that performance in the completion of pathway plans had improved from the previous years; young People felt involved in decision making about their lives; and, 100 per cent of children were spoken with on their own prior to their LAC reviews. Goitom Mebrahtu further noted that  social workers and managers were receptive to IRO challenge and there was a good rapport with Children’s Guardians. There had been fewer LAC reviews held in this reporting period due to the reduced number of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) and there had also been an improvement in the timeliness of LAC reviews from the previous year following the introduction of monthly reporting on this area.

 

The Chair thanked Goitom Mebrahtu for his introduction to the report and invited questions from the committee. Queries were subsequently raised regarding the completion of transition reports for young people moving to semi-independent provision. Goitom Mebrahtu advised that these should be completed by social workers for each young person in care when they reach seventeen years and three months of age. Nigel Chapman added that the stability of the IRO service enabled many young people in care to have the same IRO throughout, and this was very beneficial. A member of Care Leavers In Action confirmed that it had been great having the same IRO.

 

 

 

 

 

 

11.

Brent Adoption Service Report: 1 April - 30 September 2018 pdf icon PDF 142 KB

The purpose of this report is to provide information to the Council’s Corporate Parenting Committee about the general management of the adoption service and how it is achieving good outcomes for children.  This report details the activity of Brent’s adoption service from 1 April – 30 September 2018. 

Minutes:

Onder Beter (Head of LAC and Permanency) introduced the Brent Adoption Service Report for 1 April 2018 to 30 September 2018, highlighting that there had been continued improvement with regard to the timeliness of adoptions. Members’ attention was subsequently drawn to the update on the regionalisation of adoption. The committee heard that an information and engagement session had been held for Lead Members across London and senior leaders in October 2018 to share details of progress made in creating the regional adoption agency between Brent, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, Hounslow, Ealing and Hillingdon councils. Currently, a detailed business plan was being developed by a project co-ordinator on behalf of the 7 boroughs with the intention that this would be presented to Brent’s Cabinet in January 2019. The new RAA model would be implemented incrementally from April 2019.Gail Tolley reminded the committee that the regionalisation of adoption was a statutory requirement.

 

The Chair thanked Onder Beter for his introduction to the report.

 

In the subsequent discussion the committee questioned whether there were any concerns regarding the provision of support for particular families following the cap on financial support available to individual children through the Adoption Support Fund. Nigel Chapman advised that there were no concerns in this area and explained that the council had been very good at getting value out of the available funds. Onder Beter added that work was underway to commission services for post adoption support at a London level which would further ensure best value could be obtained.

12.

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 60.

Minutes:

None.