Agenda item

Annual Corporate Parenting Report 2016-2017

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. 


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 that boroughs such as Harrow and Barnet could not be compared to Brent as they were not statistical neighbours. Members heard that Brent’s statistical neighbours were detailed in the footnote of page 30 of the report.


A Member commented on problem of missing or absent LAC and what the Council had been doing to address this issue. Janet Lewis agreed that this was not acceptable but re-assured Members that it was a small minority of LAC and that the Council still attached a high priority to tackling this. She emphasised the work of the Vulnerable Adolescents’ Panel which aimed to ensure that the needs of vulnerable adolescents were understood at a strategic level in order to develop an action plan and improve services further.


Questioning moved to care and placement orders and a Member of the Committee questioned how many of these tended to be challenged in court. Kelli Eboji specified that the majority were contested and Gail Tolley added that this was consistent with what tended to happen nationally.


Specific questions were asked on the proportion of children in care who had a form of autism and how this had been addressed. Nigel Chapman outlined that a significant proportion of LAC had Autism Spectrum Disorder and that specialist autism awareness training had been recently been introduced for staff across the Council and different partner agencies, as directed by the Vulnerable Adolescents’ Panel. 


The discussion moved to provisions for care leavers and what the Council had been doing to improve its support for this group. In response to a specific question from a Member of the Committee, Officers said that proposals put forward by the Children’s Society on exempting Care Leavers from having to pay Council tax until age 25 were being considered. Responding to questions on housing arrangements, Nigel Chapman said that a lot of young people did not take up the option of ‘staying put’ but that the Council and carers had to assess what the best option would be. He explained that 75% of care leavers aged 19 to 21 were in suitable accommodation and that the Council would deem custody, bed and breakfast and ‘whereabouts unknown’ as examples of unsuitable accommodation. He also spoke about the risk of unaccompanied asylum seeking young people becoming uncontactable if they had their asylum application turned down upon reaching age 21. Members heard that the Council now had a responsibility to provide support to Care Leavers up to age 25, which included them being assigned a Personal Adviser. Mr Chapman specified in response to questions from CIA representatives that personal advisers were not the only source of support, and that the Council had different networks across Housing Needs and the Homelessness Persons team to provide additional support to Care Leavers on any issue, if necessary.


It was RESOLVED that:


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


(ii)        A report which detailed what the Council currently provided in terms of support to Care Leavers, and additional support which could be included in the Council’s local offer to Care Leavers in the future, be brought to a future meeting of the Committee.


(iii)       A report which provided a breakdown of the ethnic demographics for LAC in Brent, be brought to a future meeting of the Committee.

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