Members welcomed a care experienced young person who had recently graduated as a Social Worker and Joy Bell, the recently appointed Participation Officer. A further young person had been unable to attend due to previously scheduled maths tuition.
The Head of Corporate Parenting asked the young person in attendance to share what support Harrow had given her in her aspirations and what in retrospect might have helped, particularly given her more recent knowledge as a newly qualified social worker.
The young person reported on her experience of being looked-after by Harrow Council and receiving leaving care services. She stated that at the time of growing up in care she had been unaware of the active support that was given, for example listening to her request for a long term placement. It had been recognised that she wished to advocate for herself and lead meetings. She had received very good support during GCSEs, the Virtual school were aware of her motivation and provided support and extra-curricular assistance. She expressed the view that many young people did not understand the concept of pathway plans, and doubted whether half of them read it. After the first review she had learned the benefit but it took four reviews before she realised people’s roles. Her attendance at a number of interview panels for social work staff had been very helpful both in showing how candidates were filtered and graded but also taught her how bias was taken out and what the candidates brought to the table. Her personal advisor was a turning point in life, someone who understood her.
In response to a question as to her experience of health assessments, she stated that she had not understood the intention, she had felt continually screened and at the time had not understood why she was withdrawn from class to, for instance, have weight and height checked. She welcomed the suggestion of a shadowing opportunity and it was agreed that the Named Nurse for Children Looked After in Harrow would offer this.
The Participation Officer stated that she had been the Social Worker for the second young person for three years. The young person had recently turned 16 and was studying at a performance arts college. He had felt well supported during his recent transition, had moved away from where he was living and aimed to attend university when 18. He considered that his aspirations were really well supported such as her attending university open days with him. The only area of disappointment was the timeliness of extra tuition in English and maths as they were not as quickly provided as he would wish, particularly during the pandemic. Now he was 16 he would like to lead reviews.
The Panel was interested that young people who were interested in speaking and advocating for themselves were given the opportunity when ready to lead meetings about their circumstances. It welcomed the flexibility of moving from generic processes in such cases but noted that not all young people wished to develop in this way.
Arising from the discussion, the Head of Corporate Parenting informed the Panel that the pathway plan was effectively the care plan. The officers would need to look at how to engage young people in connection with the plan and ensure that they understood its purpose.
The Head of Corporate Planning asked the young person what three things she considered the Council could do to improve.
The Young Person expressed the view that more regular logs would be beneficial. As a young person in care she had no photographs or memories and life story work from the foster carer and social worker would provide help going forward. She had requested her documents from Harrow Council and was disappointed that her name had been misspelt and the papers were out of date order.
The Head of Corporate Parenting stated that life story and records were considered important. The Head Teacher of the Virtual School informed the Panel that teachers were encouraged to show a piece of work that the child had been proud of in order to provide memories at every PEP (Personal Education Plan) meeting.
Secondly, the Young Person suggested less use of jargon as it was confusing, for example IRO, CLA review and pathway plans. The Panel considered that the need to break down jargon was important, with less acronyms and items such as IRO written in full with an explanation. There should be signposting regarding the understanding of everyone’s roles.
Thirdly, better support for moving on from care. There had been a moment when she had felt forgotten but this was then picked by up her personal adviser. It should be recognised that not all young people wanted to move onto independent living at the same age, some needed space and that they might not wish to attend university. The Advisory Member stated that the foster carer could assist in progress chasing and in her experience young people were ready to move on at different paces.
The Panel and officers thanked the young person for the very helpful feedback.
RESOLVED: That the update be noted.