Agenda item

Children and Social Work Act 2017 and Local Offer for Care Leavers

The purpose of this report is to seek approval from the Corporate Parenting Committee regarding Brent’s Local Offer for care leavers. The Children and Social Work Act (CSWA) 2017 aims to improve support for looked after children especially for those leaving care. This report outlines the main legislative changes in the Children and Social Work Act 2017 and how Brent aims to implement those changes locally to ensure that our care leavers have the brightest future.

Minutes:

Onder Beter (Head of Looked After Children (LAC) and Permanency) introduced the report on the Children and Social Work Act 2017. The committee heard that the Act broadened the principles of corporate parenting for local authorities and required all local authorities to publish their Local Offer to care leavers by April 2018. The council had completed a lot of work in advance of this deadline and had consulted with a wide range of stakeholders, including Care Leavers in Action. The draft Local Offer to Care Leavers, attached at Appendix 1 to the report, was presented to the committee for consideration in advance of its submission to Cabinet on 12 February 2018 for approval.

 

A member questioned whether, rather than making care leavers exempt from paying council tax, it would be better for them to be supported to manage their money to cope with such expenses. Onder Beter advised that the number of care leavers who would be liable to pay council tax was relatively small and that Personal Advisers worked with care leavers to build money/budget management skills. However, underlying the proposal to exempt care leavers from paying council tax was the desire to show support for those young people as a corporate parent.  Representatives from Care in Action and Care Leavers in Action advised that many care leavers lacked the familial support network that other young people might rely upon if financial difficulties arose. Furthermore, care leavers did not have the same level of choice that many other young people had about when to leave home. The committee, accepting these points, highlighted the importance of supporting care leavers in this transitional phase.

 

Members further queried the council’s commitments regarding mental health provision for care leavers. Onder Beter advised the council was making amendments to how care leavers were supported, particularly during the transition from Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) to adult mental health services. Work was underway with social workers to ensure that care leavers’ needs in this respect were better identified and supported. A meeting had been scheduled with the provider of CAMHS tier 3 services to further discuss support for LAC and care leavers. Nigel Chapman (Operational Director, Integration and Improved Outcomes) advised that the thresholds for accessing adult mental health services were higher than CAMHS and therefore transitionary support was required. This work was being pursued in partnership with Brent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). Members commented that there should be a referral pathway prioritising care leavers as a vulnerable group. Representatives for Care Leavers in Action advised that the increased difficulty experienced by care leavers in trying to access adult mental health services could leave young people feeling uncared for. Furthermore, the increased difficulty of access came at a time when many young people were in a better position than their younger selves to be able to address and reflect on issues that had affected them. It was subsequently agreed to invite the Assistant Director, Brent CCG to a future meeting of the committee to discuss this issue further.

 

RESOLVED:

 

i)       That the report regarding the Children and Social Work Act 2017 – The ‘Local Offer’ for Care Leavers, from the Strategic Director, Children and Young People be noted.

 

ii)     That the Corporate Parenting Committee support the work of the department in ensuring partner agencies commit to providing an offer to care leavers that would be included in the final version of the Local Offer document. 

 

iii)    That the Assistant Director, Brent CCG be invited to a future meeting of the committee to discuss care leavers’ access to mental health services;

 

That Cabinet be recommended to:

 

iv)    approve the draft Local Offer to Care Leavers as set out in Appendix 1 of the report from the Strategic Director, Children and Young People;

 

v)     delegate authority to the Strategic Director, Children and Young People, to make any necessary revisions to the Local Offer and re-consult if required following publication of statutory guidance;

 

vi)    approve the Brent Care Leavers Charter as set out at Appendix 2 of the report from the Strategic Director, Children and Young People;

 

vii)   agree that as part of the Local Offer to Care Leavers who are looked after by Brent:

a.    that the Council use its powers as a billing authority to reduce to nil council tax payable by care leavers who live in the borough;

b.    that in cases where care leavers live outside the borough and are liable to pay council tax, the Council provide financial support to reimburse that cost;

 

viii) delegate authority to the Strategic Director of Resources and the Strategic Director, Children and Young People to take all appropriate steps to set up, implement and administer all the areas of support as set out in the Local Offer.

 

Supporting documents: