Report and Presentation - Corporate Director of People Services.
The Panel received a presentation from the Head of Corporate Parenting providing an update on the Corporate Parenting Service and the Corporate Parenting Strategy 2022-25 which set out the Council’s vision, achievements, foundations and the key priorities.
Corporate Parenting Service
The Head of Corporate Parenting updated the Panel on the key service areas and the performance scorecard for Q3. She referred to the last column on the scorecard – Harrow actual Q3 2021-22 – and reported that improvements were expected in the areas shaded red and amber and expected Member scrutiny in this regard. She drew attention to areas which had improved from Q2, such as in dental checks. The importance of dental checks had been highlighted with both the social workers and foster carers and it was recognised that additional improvements were required. The target was to reach 90%+ for Q4. Harrow’s statistical neighbours had experienced significant declines in dental checks for CLA (42%) during the same period, which was a testament to the hard work of social workers and carers in prioritising the health needs of children in care.
With regard to health checks, the position had markedly improved. In terms of the percentage of children who ceased to be looked after who were adopted, it was important to note that there was not a target in terms of numbers of children adopted by Harrow each year, decisions were based on the individual best interests of children as part of permanency planning. She was pleased to report that 3 children had been adopted and 12 children had permanency under special guardianship orders (SGOs).
Furthermore, as discussed at the last meeting, Harrow was now caring for 30 unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC). The figure had increased in the last 3 months, but it was below the quota of UASCs the Council had agreed to accommodate.
There had been an improvement in young people accessing education, employment, and training (NEET). A Challenge Panel had recently been set up and would focus on developing plans for young people to be supported into education, employment, and training opportunities. Support was also provided by the Harrow Virtual School.
The Panel’s attention was drawn to the CLA demographics and disproportionality, and Members were informed that the Asian group was underrepresented. There had been an increase in Asian CLA from 15% to 26%. There had been a small decrease in the white and mixed race CLA.
The participation at the Children in Care Council event in January 2022 ought to be applauded and it was hoped to build-on this event and involve more young people in care. Feedback was received from care experienced young people about services and their key messages from this event were: what happened when they left care, how this could be improved and the need to have mental health services in place. A self-assessment was planned, and the Service was looking to explore the best ways in which the voices of CLA could be heard. Harrow was also aspiring to an inspection that could be led by young people in care. The Pan London Children in Care Group was also lobbying TFL (Transport for London) to provide free transport for children in care.
The Chair invited questions and comments from Member, particularly in relation to the scorecard, details of which were set out on page 15 of the agenda. Members commented as follows:
- the improvements in dental health checks, health checks and the figures for adoption and guardianship as welcomed. A Member commented that she was not in favour of setting targets for adoption which she considered to be artificial as the child and his/her future was more important than a target;
- it was understood that the backlog in respect of the timeliness of reviews for CLA was as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and that the reviews would be prioritised. It was noted that there had been an issue with the recording of this issue as a result of glitches in IT;
- the percentage of care leavers not in education, employment, or training (19-21 years old) was concerning and clarification was required. The Divisional Director of Children and Young People Services clarified that 2 in 3 children were in education/ employment /training, but he acknowledged that further improvements were required;
- that the previously established relationship with temples needed to be revitalised in order to increase the number of Asian foster carers.
The Head of Corporate Parenting referred to the Corporate Parenting Strategy 2022-2025 and briefed the Panel on the achievement made to date and examples of good practice. She outlined the key priorities at pages 19 – 23 of the agenda, including the aspiration, and highlighted the following achievements:
- care experienced young people were part of every interview panel to recruit social workers, after care personal advisors and managers in the Children Looked After, UASC, and Leaving Care team (introduced in 2020);
- the Council was one of the first local authorities in England to sign-up to the Parents In and Leaving Care Charter;
- the Harrow Local Offer to Care Leavers was refreshed following consultation with care experienced young people in 2021. Council tax exemption for all Harrow Care Leavers until their 25th birthday was introduced in April 2021;
- in 2021, the Council stayed in touch with 98% of care leavers aged 19-21, and 96% were in suitable accommodation;
- 100% of eligible children had a completed Personal Education Plan (PEP) in 2021;
- no child looked after by Harrow had a permanent exclusion in 2020-2021;
- all children were given extra tuition according to their need;
- the Staying Put policy enabled care leavers to remain with their foster carers after their 18th birthday.
The priorities for 2022-2025 were set as follows:
- education, training and employment: The Council had high aspirations and wanted to close the attainment gap for children in care. The Council would Increase the proportion of care leavers in education, training and employment;
- improve the involvement and participation of young people in all services for children looked after and care leavers, with a focus on co-production, service design, delivery and evaluation;
- children looked after would be happy and healthy, safe and protected from harm and sexual exploitation: improve the physical, emotional and social health and wellbeing of children looked after and care leavers;
- safe and stable homes: The Council would provide a choice of good quality placements that provide security, stability, safety and high standards of care.
Members were delighted with the progress and the participation from young people which showed a degree of ownership. The direction from young people was welcomed. The Head of Corporate Parenting acknowledged the positive steps that had been made across the service but noted that the Council was still on a journey and building on participation for children and young people in care.
RESOLVED: That the update and the Strategy be noted.