Members received the Corporate Parenting Service Update.
They were informed that there was an overall improvement (of 11%) in the children classified as not in education, employment or training (NEET) performance in the first quarter. However, improving the numbers of care leavers in education, training and employment remained a priority for the Service.
Prospects were commissioned to support care leavers (16-19-year olds) back into education, employment and training (EET) and Xcite (for the over 18-year-olds). Additional support from Catch 22 “Future Pathways” to support young people into training and employment up to age of 24, was being provided through partnerships with employers, such as Wagamamas.
The data on children placed over 20 miles from Harrow was examined and explained. There were 30 individual children placed over 20 miles from Harrow (at 30 June 2021). Most of these children were placed outside of Harrow due to care planning decisions, based on an assessment of their welfare and best interests.
Seven children were placed outside of Harrow due to child sexual exploitation (CSE) or child criminal exploitation; four children were placed with family, kinship carers or adopters, and 10 children had been matched long term with their foster carers and were in their permanent home. Eight children were placed in a specialist residential placement to meet their educational or disability needs, and one child had experienced a placement breakdown and was in a temporary placement.
Harrow Council was one of the first local authorities in England to sign the Charter for Parents in and leaving care. The Council was committed to supporting mothers and fathers who were in care, or in the process of leaving care.
The Fostering Service Annual Report highlights were shared with Panel Members.
There were key challenges in recruiting more foster carers during the past year, and the following were reasons:
1) during lockdown, the usual methods of recruitment marketing were put on hold. The Harrow People Magazine was not published and no face to face events or information evenings could be held;
2) to continue raising awareness of the need for new Foster Carers in Harrow during the pandemic, leaflets were distributed to households in the borough. A Virtual Information Session was held and fostering promoted via Harrow Website and Facebook Page; and
3) the Service would be resuming the usual methods of active recruitment now that the Covid-19 restrictions had been lifted. The Service would go into the community, hold events and target communities to raise the profile of fostering, particularly in the Eastern European community.
In terms of Private Fostering, 10 new private fostering notifications were made to Harrow (April 2020 - March 2021). Following assessment, six of the notifications were assessed as not private fostering. Therefore, only four new private fostering arrangements started during the year. At the end of March 2021 there were six active private fostering arrangements.
Placement sufficiency was a key issue for Harrow and for councils across England. Work was continuing on the West London Fostering Project with Ealing, Brent and Harrow. This was to develop a shared offer to foster carers and improvement in the recruitment, retention and support for Local Authority Foster Carers.
Furthermore, with the anticipated increase in unaccompanied minors (UASC) seeking asylum in the country, it was noted that Harrow Council would continue to do their part and accommodate UASCs.
Harrow had committed to receiving 0.08% of the child population. In real terms, this meant that Harrow was likely to accommodate a further 20 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the months ahead. Therefore, the numbers of CLA would likely increase.
There would be a need to recruit additional social workers to manage the increase in children becoming looked after. More carers in the borough, would be required to cope with increased demand in fostering. Harrow had partnered with neighbouring Ealing and Brent to keep Children Looked After (CLA) in North West London.
It was envisaged that one young asylum seeker would be invited to join the next meeting to share their experiences of being looked after by Harrow Council.
It was noted that the Corporate Parenting Strategy was currently being updated for 2022-2025. This would be shared at the next Panel meeting.
An update about the National Care Review – Case for Change was also provided at the meeting, and the link shared for the paper: “case-for-change.pdf” (Independent-Review.UK)
Members thanked the Children Services Team for their work and noted the progress that had been made since the last meeting.
RESOLVED: That the Update be noted.