Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Virtual Meeting - Online access

Contact: Andy Carswell  01628 796319

Items
No. Item

155.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 1972 - EXCLUSION OF THE PUBLIC

To consider passing the following resolution:-

 

“That under Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public be excluded from the remainder of the meeting whilst discussion takes place, on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraphs 1-7 of part I of Schedule 12A of the Act."

Minutes:

RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: To approve the motion to exclude the public.

156.

Welcome, Introductions and Apologies for Absence

To welcome everyone to the meeting and receive any apologies for absence.

Minutes:

The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting and asked those present to introduce themselves.

 

Apologies were received from Debbie Hartrick, Lin Ferguson and Kickback member Harley.

157.

Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

158.

Minutes

To approve the minutes of the meeting held on December 10th 2020.

Minutes:

RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the minutes of the meeting held on December 10th 2020 be approved as a correct record.

 

159.

Kickback Activity

To take part in an activity organised by Kickback members.

Minutes:

Elaine Keating reminded the Forum that a report had been produced last year based on the findings of a survey, with one of the questions asking young people in care about words they did not like to hear used about themselves. Off the back of the survey a foster carer had sent in a short video called Changing The Narrative, which explored this subject. The video was played to the Forum and suggestions were sought for alternatives to some of the words that were commonly used around young people in care. One of the phrases that was highlighted was the Corporate Parenting Forum itself, with Special Responsibility Forum having been suggested as an alternative by a foster carer. Cllr Carroll asked if Community Parent Forum might also be a better name.

 

Suzanne Parrott said some work on this subject had been done by the Virtual School. The terms action, contact and respite had all been flagged up as having negative connotations; if the child was not in care then terms such as sleepover or visit would be used. Other terms such as breakdown and placement were highlighted as having negative connotations. The term respite generally referred to a break for the foster carers, but this created its own negative situation in that the children in care would sometimes ask why they couldn’t also go on a break.

 

Regarding changing the name of the Forum, members were reminded this would need to be formally ratified by Full Council. Danny Gomm stated that the term Corporate Parent was a nationally recognised term and used in national guidance, and while he did not want to dissuade members from pursuing a name change he said that amending the name of the Forum could cause some confusion amongst professionals. Cllr Carroll suggested it could be listed on the RBWM website as being formerly known as the Corporate Parenting Forum, and other authorities may then follow the Royal Borough’s lead in changing the name. Damon Hall stated his preference for Community Parent Forum, as had been suggested earlier. Cllr Carroll said it would be best if all the suggestions for alternative names were put to the young people in care at a Kickback meeting, and for them to choose their preferred option. This would then be brought back to a future Forum meeting.

 

Marie Bell suggested some comms be sent out to partner agencies to make them aware of any proposed change. She also suggested an A-Z glossary of words young people did not like, and alternatives that should be used, could be produced. It was agreed this would be investigated by Danny Gomm and Elaine Keating.

 

Cllr Luxton asked if foster carers would be expected to take their foster children with them on holiday. Elaine Keating said in the majority of cases they would, but it was an individual’s choice and sometimes alternative care arrangements would be made while the foster carers were away. It would down to the individual whether or not they wanted  ...  view the full minutes text for item 159.

160.

Kickback/PACT update

To receive updates on Kickback, PACT and the Leaving Care Forum.

Minutes:

Elaine Keating provided the Forum with an update on the Kickback group’s latest activities. They had been able to meet in Marlow Road for their December meeting, which they enjoyed as they had missed face to face meetings. It should have been the group’s Christmas party and meal out but this could not happen so they had pizza at Marlow Road instead.

 

The next two meetings took place via Zoom. In January the group made slime with Kayleigh from Norden Farm and had a competition to see who could blow the biggest bubble with their slime. As part of the formal section of the meeting the Kickback members spoke about the Care Plan for children in care. They liked the new document and especially the part where they could use their own words to describe their story. Members said they felt this was the most important section for any professional to read. They were waiting to see what the final version would look like.

 

For the February meeting the Kickback group were joined by James the cartoonist, and they all drew a cartoon version of the Liverpool footballer Mo Salah. For the activity they spoke about some of the words and terminology that was used by professionals around being in care, as had been discussed in the previous agenda item. The main words members did not like were corporate parents, placement, breakdown, respite and contact; while it was accepted some of the terms are used directly from legislation members said they don't particularly like them. Kickback members were due to have another conversation about this, along with suggestions for alternative words and phrases that came in from foster carers and members of the Corporate Parenting Forum from the meeting where the terms were discussed. The term ‘Special Responsibility Parent’ was suggested as an alternative for Corporate Parent; household instead of placement; and Living Arrangement Discussion instead of Placement Breakdown Meeting, as this gave the impression any issues were the fault of the child in care. Sometimes issues would come about if a child was not placed in the right home in the first instance. Breather was suggested as an alternative to respite and family time in place of contact.

 

Kickback members would be having a competition to come up with a name for the contact centre when it moves from Mill House to Pinkneys Youth Centre. They had asked if any Forum members knew of anywhere members could get funding to furnish the building. There was funding available to fit out the building appropriately but not to furnish it. Kickback and the Youth Ambassadors might work together on the project to design and decorate the interior and help select soft furnishings.

 

For the March meeting Kickback members would be joined by Damon to redesign the Advocacy flyer and also doing some tie dying. Members were still in the process of designing their own coming into care booklet, and they were grateful for the input into it from staff and professionals.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 160.

161.

Children in Care Survey

To receive an update.

Minutes:

Danny Gomm told the Forum that the current survey was in the process of being run, and would conclude at the end of March as it had done last year. Throughout the rest of the year the progress on issues raised in the survey would be monitored and presented through the ‘You Said, We Did’ updates. Danny Gomm said uptake had increased compared to last year, and for the first time it was being recorded when a young person had declined an invitation to take part in the survey.

162.

Children in Care Reviews

To review and consider the report.

Minutes:

It was agreed that this item be deferred to the next meeting.

163.

Care Leavers, NEET and Apprenticeship Report

To consider the contents of the report.

Minutes:

Suzanne Parrott introduced Michael Guard, Assistant Headteacher of the AfC Virtual College, who explained the Virtual College had been established in September for people in care aged 16-25 who were seeking further education, employment or training. Results for young people aged 16-18 in Key Stage 5 had been positive and 76 per cent had achieved a qualification. The percentage obtaining an A level was 21 per cent; the national average of A level qualification rate for children not in care was 39 per cent. Michael Guard said five per cent of young people in care across AfC’s three geographical areas had gone on to university, against a national average of six per cent for children in care. In total, 55 per cent of all young people would go on to attend university and the Virtual College wanted as many people in care to go on to attend if they felt that was the most appropriate thing for them to do.

 

Before the Virtual College was established, 33 per cent of young people in care were not undertaking any form of post-16 education; the national average was 28.5 per cent. However the figure across AfC was now 11 per cent as many more young people had been engaging with the Virtual College. Michael Guard said a pathway had been created to provide greater stability for young people in care, and to establish what they wanted to study or train for. Doing this with greater urgency had helped reduce the number of young people not in education or training. More work experience opportunities and careers advice was being offered to help young people find the right career path for them and to make sure nobody was left behind. The Forum was told more conversations were taking place with young people in care, to find out what barriers there had been that might have held them back previously. Links to community groups were being sought, with a view to championing the young people in care. A link had already been established with Kingston University to develop a mentoring programme for young people in care who were considering going to university, and to help them overcome any personal barriers and raise their aspirations. Michael Guard said however that more work needed to be done to make the transition post Key Stage 5 smoother for young people in care.

 

Suzanne Parrott said there was a NEET Board that met every six weeks, which helped establish an action plan for each young person in care who was not in education, employment or training. She gave an example of a NEET young person who came into care, and was attending school two weeks later off the back of their action plan being implemented. Staff would always seek to keep a child in the same school to give them some stability, if there were other aspects of their life that were not as stable, such as constantly changing social worker or foster family.

 

The Forum was told there  ...  view the full minutes text for item 163.

164.

Independent Visitor and Advocacy Report

To note and discuss the contents of the report.

Minutes:

Damon Hall of WM Counselling introduced himself and explained that they had been running the Advocacy at Number 22 service since 2014. Last year they had been invited to attend around half of all initial child protection conferences. Damon Hall explained that once assigned to a child an advocate would stay with them throughout their journey through social services, regardless of which direction they would go on to take. That support would remain in place up until the age of 25. It was often the case that an advocate would be the professional that a young person would end up knowing for the longest period of time. Damon Hall gave the example of a young person in care who had known 12 social workers, three foster families and been placed at a number of different schools, but had always retained the same advocate.

 

Damon Hall said Number 22 had been looking to implement an independent visitor service last year, but this had had to be put on hold due to Covid. This project was now being restarted and it was hoped the recruitment process could begin shortly. It was also planned to redesign the advocacy service’s information leaflet, as the current design was considered to be outdated.

 

It was hoped that young people would soon be able to refer themselves to the advocacy service, rather than requiring a social worker to do so on their behalf. Quite often social workers were not aware of an advocacy service so would not be in a position to talk about it with young people in care. Damon Hall said he hoped an introduction to advocacy services could be provided as part of a young person’s induction when they first came into care. He said he always felt sad when a care leaver said they had never had an advocate, as that could have helped provide them with a voice throughout the time they were in care. This proposed service, and the redesigned leaflet, was being consulted on jointly between Number 22 and Kickback. Damon Hall explained the current setup required a young person to ask their social worker for an advocate, and the social worker would then make the referral on their behalf. Sometimes this was difficult for young people to initiate if they were at loggerheads with their social worker and would therefore feel uncomfortable asking. He added that anyone working for AfC was able to make a referral, although it would generally be a social worker that did it.

 

The Forum was told the majority of advocates were qualified counsellors and therapists, while others came from other areas of expertise from working with young people.

 

Elaine Keating stated her belief that young people should be assigned an advocate when they first come into care, to help them make their voices heard. This would be particularly helpful in review meetings, where sometimes a young person may be reticent to speak up. Elaine Keating and Marie Bell both said they supported the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 164.

165.

Virtual School Development Report

To receive an update.

Minutes:

Suzanne Parrott told the Forum that performance data showed that students across the AfC area had been performing very well during the Covid restrictions. There was a higher than average rate of physically attending school, as opposed to doing home learning, and absence rates were lower than they would be in a normal year. Suzanne Parrott said there was a significant increase in GCSE results for children in care who were attending outstanding, as opposed to good, rated schools. It was noted that 94 per cent of pupils in the Royal Borough were attending a good or outstanding school, above the national average.

166.

Dates of Future Meetings

To note the date of the next meeting as April 15th 2021 at 5.30pm. Dates for the 2021/22 municipal year to be confirmed at Full Council on March 2nd 2021.

 

Minutes:

Members noted the next meeting date of April 15th, and that the meeting schedule for the 2021/22 municipal year was due to be approved at Full Council the following week.

 

Cllr Tisi asked if the next meeting could include an item on Council Tax breaks for care leavers aged up to the age of 25, which had been discussed at a Task and Finish Group of the Adults, Children and Health Overview and Scrutiny Panel. A further Task and Finish Group had been scheduled, but it was agreed to investigate whether this could be brought forward to an earlier date and members of the Forum be invited.