Agenda item

Effectiveness of Existing Support Arrangements for Care Leavers and Implications of Recent Legislative Changes

The purpose of this report is to provide information to the Scrutiny Committee about the effectiveness of current services for care leavers and the implications of recent legislative changes introduced by the Children and Social Work Act.

 

Minutes:

Councillor Mili Patel (Lead Member for Children and Young People) and Nigel Chapman (the Council’s Operational Director for Integration and Improved Outcomes) introduced the paper which informed the Committee about the effectiveness of current services for care leavers and the implications of recent legislative changes introduced by the Children and Social Work Act in April 2017. Mr Chapman explained that one of the key changes was that the duty and responsibility to all care leavers was extended to the age of 25, regardless of their education and employment status. He directed the Committee’s attention to section four of the report (page 35 to the Agenda pack) which provided information on the most recent Ofsted inspection that took place in September 2015. In response to the finding that the quality of support for care leavers required improvement, a specialist Leaving Care Team had been created, the number of Personal Advisers (PAs) had been increased and experienced managers had been recruited to support PAs. Nevertheless, the number of young people Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) remained a concern – although the proportion of care leavers in education, employment or training was above the national average (51% compared to 49%), it remained below the Borough’s statistical neighbours (56%) (paragraphs 4.2 to 4.8 on pages 36 and 37 to the Agenda pack). Onder Beter (the Council’s Head of Looked After Children and Permanency) said that the despite the fact that 45 young people were in higher education, the number of care leavers in vocational training (apprenticeships) had to be improved – currently, three care leavers were in an apprenticeship, 12 awaited next month’s allocation and eight had been supported into employment through the NEET panel, which would bring Brent to the national average.

 

A Member of the Committee asked how effective services for care leavers were and whether Brent Council followed the principles of corporate parenting. Mr Chapman said that this enquiry fell into the remit of the Corporate Parenting Committee and highlighted that key accomplishments had been the reduction of the ratio of cases to PAs, the increase in the number of young people accessing apprenticeships, and the provision of permanent accommodation to care leavers. Moreover, each care leaver had a pathway that addressed certain areas for support and guidance and  over 90% of pathways were being completed on time.

 

In relation to PAs’ workload, Mr Beter said that following the legislative changes, the Local Authority could support approximately 500 young people although the level of support could vary as often care leavers did not all want or need the same level of guidance. Nevertheless, support remained available, if required, and very experienced managers and PAs had been appointed to deliver services under the new arrangements. As far as contact with care leavers was concerned, Mr Beter said that the Local Authority was measured on the number of people it kept in touch with and it was a requirement to maintain contact with care leavers who had to be able to access a service wherever they were. He reminded the Committee that Brent remained responsible for Looked After Children even when they had moved outside the Borough.

 

Andrew Ward (the Council’s Head of Finance – Children and Young People) said that although the precise budget implications of the new local offer were not yetclear, there was a need for demographic growth to be built in so a new cohort of teenagers, currently growing up, could be accounted for. Gail Tolley (the Council’s Strategic Director of Children and Young People) added that the new offer required additional resources and she would be making the case that the Council considered lobbying the Department for Education to secure the additional funding required due to legal implications arising from the Children and Social Work Act. In terms of a rough estimation of cost, if the Council had to support 200 additional care leavers and continue to provide the same level of service, it had to recruit eight new PAs, costing approximately £328,000.

 

In response to a question about partnership work, the Committee heard that the Council’s apprenticeship and job brokerage service had contacts with key employers in the Borough and Mr Beter said that he would be meeting with Matt Dibben, Head of Employment, Skills and Enterprise, to discuss potential options of joint working to identify employment opportunities, suitable for care leavers, and potential options of working together with companies such as the Football Association, Wembley Stadium, Ikea, Costco, etc. Furthermore, when tickets for events at Wembley Stadium were received, the first allocation was to children in care and care leavers. Ms Tolley said that there had been good working between teams within the local authority and spoke about a special session delivered at Brent Senior Managers Group which informed colleagues of the work of the Leaving Care Team and generated pledges from various teams to support care leavers. As far as the transition of the Brent Housing Partnership back in house was concerned, Ms Tolley noted that she had attended the induction of staff who had moved over and Mr Beter highlighted that there would be an allocated officer from Housing who would support care leavers, including with arrangements in the private sector. This would mean that a case would be closed only when the young person had demonstrated the skills necessary to manage their tenancy. The Committee heard that no care leaver had been made homeless in the last 11 months and there were not any care leavers living in a bed and breakfast type of placement.

 

Access to mental health services continued being a major challenge as the current Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) had different levels of interventions for adults and children, with no service bridging this gap. Nevertheless, this issue would be addressed in the work of the Children’s Trust.

  

A Member of the Committee asked a question that related to consulting young people on the offer. Mr Chapman explained that the Care in Action Group (for young people under 18 and care leavers over 18) met every week and was attended by Council officers and partners on a regular basis. Ms Tolley added that representatives of the Group sat on the Corporate Parenting Committee and there was a standing item on its agenda to consider reports by them, along with any issues they wished to raise.

 

Ms Tolley summarised that she was pleased with the progress that had been made towards the revised local offer. She said that there had been good input from the Corporate Parenting Committee and a draft updated local offer would be presented to it in February for approval before it was considered by Cabinet prior to April 2018. 

 

RESOLVED that:

(i)    The contents of the Effectiveness of Existing Support Arrangements for Care Leavers and Implications of Recent Legislative Changes report, be noted;

 

(ii)  The Lead Member for Children and Young People and the Council continued to lobby central government to secure the necessary finances to  meet the delivery of the new local offer;

 

(iii)Detail be sought from mental health services about how they would work with care leavers up to the age of 25 in relation to the new local offer; and

 

(iv)The Head of Strategy and Partnerships be encouraged to seek support from local retail outlets to add value to the local care offer.

 

Ms Yaqub left the meeting at 8:10 pm.

Councillor Mili Patel left the meeting at 8:51 pm.

 

Supporting documents: